The private sector is playing an active role to identify and improve skill development programmes, although the road ahead poses a challenge.
Vocational education for those who have not completed a formal education seems to be looking up with many private players starting their own skill-based institution or adopting an existing ITI.
In the last six months, nearly 20 skill-based courses were launched, which has not happened in the last five to six years. While TVS Educational Society launched its own vocational college with emphasis on high school dropouts, Everonn Skill Development School has made a beginning with hospitality programmes.
Future Group is also exploring the possibility for a private-public partnership. Plus, many players in the automobile, electronics and hospitality sector are running their own programmes as well as absorbing students after the training.
Industrial Training Centres (ITC) are also seeing a mushrooming growth. Currently there are 6,000 ITCs in the country, up from the 3,500 that existed in 2005.
A majority of the big corporates either commission a study before starting programmes or start with short-term skill initiatives that would help their sector. Auto components, building and construction material, real estate services, electronics and IT hardware, food processing, retail, healthcare, textiles, tourism and hospitality, textiles, media and entertainment and education are some of the major focus areas for skill-development programmes in the country.
A recent study by ICRA Management Consulting Services for the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on ‘The Skill Development Landscape in India and Implementing Quality Skills Training' says “India is expected to be home to a skilled workforce of 500 million people by 2020.”
The relevant skills need to be adequately groomed if about 12 million people have to join the workforce every year.
According to experts, the skill market produced by ITIs and polytechnic colleges was not up to the mark of the industry.
“More and more private organisations started entering this market to address the skill shortage by designing relevant skills they need as well as what the market needs,” says Director of FICCI Skill Division. He says the private-public partnership started since 2006-2007 to give ITIs a facelift, and now there are many success stories to talk about. Adopting an ITI, framing a curriculum, training and placing them would only give more importance to skill development training.
According to A. Ayyakkannu, director, Board of Apprenticeship Training (Southern Region), the contribution of the private sector to enhance skill development training in the Tenth Five Year Plan is 52 per cent more than the previous years. However, there are many challenges.
Mobilising students to join a programme is not easy. Talking about skill requirement in bakery and confectionery, Gita Krishnaraj, consultant, Unit of Foundation for Vocational Training, says it is tough to find students, as a majority of today's youth want to go for white collar jobs.
This field needs a lot of hard work and if they can pass the litmus test, there is a high demand for bakers and the salary is also promising, she says.
The vocational centre, a venture run by the Chennai Corporation, Rotary Club of Madras East and Chennai Mission, trains economically underprivileged students and school dropouts.
The mindset that only a “degree” counts is another stumbling block. Mr. Ayyakkannu says that mobility from rural to urban areas is less at the Plus-Two level, even when there are openings.
Giving the example of vocational institutions in Germany, where every student works with an industry, he says industry-institution collaboration has to happen from grass root level in order to achieve the necessary scale and speed. “Also, stipend is another pull factor for students,” he adds.
Along with addressing such concerns, experts say faculty teaching vocational courses need to be provided skill upgrade from the industry from time to time.
While skill and knowledge are the driving forces of economic growth and development, experts say communication skills and technology have to be integrated, for that is the competitive world India is moving into.