Recent signs of a strategic policy shift from education to employability could go a long way in establishing India as a global HR engine. By 2020 India is estimated to have 850 million people in the working age group, accounting for 28% of the global workforce.. If this 850 million is made employable, India has the potential of becoming a leading source for skills. However, skilling 850 million people is by no means a simple task. It will require application of a carefully thought out strategy for desired results.
There are two approaches that seem essential: the first is to closely align capacity building to emerging industry needs; the second is to ensure that the solutions are scalable and the investments required to scale are not linear. Translated, this means creating skilling programs in sectors where the demand is going to be the highest and therefore Public-Private Participation (PPP) to develop appropriate standards, curriculum, faculty and certification processes. When these programs are deployed in close proximity to the industry, the outcomes will be better. In addition, these programs must use inexpensive and scalable technology such as cloud-based learning programs that can be customized at minimal cost; inexpensive open source software to create engaging and immersive modules for self-paced learning; and mobile networks for anytime-anywhere distribution.
The recent 10th Annual Talent Shortage Survey from Manpower Group showed that filling skilled jobs was one the biggest challenges before global businesses. This problem is not unique to India. However, of those surveyed, 58% from India said that filling jobs was difficult. This is against the global average of 38%[i]. Clearly, India has a bigger problem than many other parts of the world. Hence, the urgency to develop and deploy professional skill development programs and processes cannot be over-emphasized.
This is especially true for skill development in rural India where we need to build capacity to ensure higher employability. To address the needs of an expanding labour market from various perspectives, the last budget most encouragingly allocated Rs. 1,500 crore for skilling rural youth under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gramin Kaushal Yojana which is expected to create increased demand for skilled labour and better credit management. However, to achieve impact at scale, the convergence of management, monitoring and quality assurance frameworks with other skill development initiatives is a must. A case in point is the National Skill Certification and Monetary Reward Scheme branded as STAR (Standard Training Assessment and Reward) with Rs. 1,350 crore allocated for motivating the youth to join skill development programs through monetary rewards.
The fast emerging concept of ‘blended model of learning’ should work especially well for rural skilling needs. Combining online and classroom instruction, this model integrates the socializing opportunities of a classroom with the flexibility of online learning, freeing up the student’s time for family obligations, part-time jobs and other pursuits. International studies have indicated that a blended model leads to lowered dropout rates. However, for blended models, there is a clear need to establish a robust infrastructure – technology, curriculum, content, faculty, collaboration with academia, physical facilities and industry linkages.
As the blended model and other similar frameworks succeed, they will help meet the goals of global businesses investing in India by catering to the resultant surge in demand of skilled labour. A driver of global business interest is India’s growing middle class. Almost 25% of its population is considered middle class. This may appear to be a small percentage, however it translates into more than the population of the US. But it isn’t just the numbers that are swelling; even their purchasing power is growing. A forecast by the McKinsey Global Institute says that “Income levels will almost triple, and India will climb from its position as the twelfth-largest consumer market today to become the world’s fifth-largest consumer market by 2025.”
While most of the developed economies are ageing, India has the distinction of being one of the youngest nations with 54% of its population below 25 years. Let’s join hands to ensure that India reaps the power of its numbers.
Atul Raja is Executive Vice President-Marketing at Wadhwani Foundation