Upping the employability

With today being World Youth Skill Day, find out how sustained skill development can help people thrive.

Updated - July 15, 2021 11:20 pm IST

Published - July 15, 2021 11:18 pm IST



The disruptions caused by the pandemic have hurt all sectors, including India’s skill development ecosystem. While specialised skill development offers vocational training and promotes gainful employment opportunities via demand-supply mapping in various verticals, the pandemic has seen short- and long-term training courses being disrupted, thereby hurting millions of students.

In the first wave, 30,000-plus Industrial Training Institutes and National Skills Training Institutes shut training centres temporarily, hurting the prospects of five million aspirants across India. Centres that continued with training during this time deployed digital and online modes of education. A National Skill Development Corporation partner launched online certification courses in Data Analytics, Technology and Finance while another offered online training in Retail, BFSI, beauty and healthcare sectors.

Sustained reskilling

It’s clear the new normal has led to a greater emphasis on upskilling and reskilling, which will need to be undertaken periodically to remain relevant. Although companies make an effort to hire people with relevant skills and even train them further, the process often stops after an initial phase. Without periodic training, a glaring gap in employee skills imperils the future of workers and organisations.

Whereas companies tout their Learning and Development (L&D) programmes, there is confusion about training and development courses. Employee training revolves around programmes that enable workers to pick up precise skills or imbibe knowledge that enhances job performance. Employee development, on the other hand, denotes a process in which the manager and worker get together in creating a development plan. As transformation across industries is driven by innovation and new technologies, a future-oriented approach calls for upskilling, reskilling or even relearning.

Institutionalising skilling

All employees, no matter what their age, will need periodic training and refresher courses to avoid redundancy. Understanding the skills necessary under the new normal is also vital to keep pace with the dynamic nature of work. Some crucial skills include digital, cognitive, technical and socio-emotional.

While being important in themselves, digital skills will also mandate the ability to access, understand, evaluate, manage, integrate and create information appropriately and safely.

Cognitive skills will comprise the ability to comprehend complex ideas while adapting deftly to the environment as well as learning from experience and reason. This involves strong foundational and mathematical literacy together with critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving abilities.

Technical skills denote acquired knowledge, expertise and the interactions required to perform select tasks, including the ability to skillfully use required tools, technologies or materials.

Socio-emotional skills pertain to one’s ability to negotiate interpersonal relationships and social situations efficiently. Such skills would include leadership, team spirit, self-control and grit.

In addressing challenges in skills development and prioritising solutions, the World Bank Group (WBG) has developed the STEP (Skills Toward Employment and Productivity) programme. The WBG asserts that urgent reforms are required and warns of the tremendous costs of inaction. Worldwide, it states that countries must tackle three key issues vis-à-vis skills development: (1) access and completion (2) quality (3) relevance.

First, from preschool and post-secondary education to vocational training, investments in education and skills development will lead to high returns. Second, many youngsters attend schools without learning basic literacy skills, which leaves them incapable of competing in job markets. Third, though technical and vocational training and education can provide the youth, especially women, relevant skills to compete for more remunerative jobs, engaging with local employers is vital to ascertain the curriculum and delivery of the programmes are as per market needs.

Finally, with repeated waves of the pandemic underway, the writing is on the wall. Reskilling denotes surviving and thriving; not doing so would risk fading into redundancy.

The writer is Chairman Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC)

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