Low education levels, high dropout rates and ‘unemployability' of the educated workforce all necessitate lifelong learning for skill development, said S.Y. Shah of the School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, on Wednesday.

Addressing a national workshop on lifelong learning for skill development, Mr. Shah said that 63.9 per cent of the existing work force was either illiterate or literate up to primary level.

Out of the over 200 million students enrolling in Class I each year, only 20 million finish Class XII with the dropout rate a staggering 90 per cent. Skills generated in the unorganised sector have no formal recognition and, therefore, there is no career growth for workers.

Of the total unemployed among educated, 69 per cent were without professional skills.

Of the roughly 509 million workers currently employed in the country, only 12 per cent were skilled.

Besides, 80 per cent of workforce had no marketable skills and only 2 per cent had skill training, he said, highlighting the need for lifelong learning and skill development as the demand for skilled workforce would be 500 million by 2022.

Mr. Shah is also a member of UGC Expert Committee on Lifelong Learning and Extension. One of the big challenges would be to offer certification and vertical mobility to youth in the non-formal field by recognised bodies as per National Vocational Qualification Framework (NVQF), he said.

Majority of the workforce in the non-formal sector has about 40 to 60 per cent skills in the trade but lack in certification to pursue a career. Confederation of Indian Industry, Indira Gandhi National Open University and a conglomeration of corporates in manufacturing and services sector are working on a certification process for vertical mobility of youth in the sector, he said.

Apart from the certification process, accreditation, providing financial support to weaker sections, linking universities and local communities, promoting inclusive education and generating employment for weaker sections were the challenges, Prof. Shah said.

G. Thiruvasagam, Vice-Chancellor, University of Madras; V. Mohan Kumar, Director, Indian Adult Education Association; K. Meena, Vice-Chancellor, Bharathidasan University; and N.V.R. Kapali, Head, Department of Adult and Continuing Education, University of Madras, spoke.