news Saturday, May 16, 2015 - 05:30
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-publicised maiden visit to China finally came to a close on May 16. While major economic deals worth $22 billion were inked, it was the “Make in India" initiative that Modi personally pitched to top Chinese businessmen.   "Make in India", introduced in September 2014, aims to transform India into a global manufacturing powerhouse, a role that China has been assuming over the past three decades.   Modi, who has been travelling extensively across the globe to push the initiative, including recent visits to France, Germany, and Canada, also has to focus on intra-country factors like the growing number of Small and Medium Enterprises or SMEs which make up the backbone of any economy.   In an exclusive interview to The News Minute, Subramaniam Ramadorai, the advisor to the Prime Minister of India in the national council on skill development and also the chairman of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) talks about the various aspects of the “Make in India” campaign and how India needs to skill up if the campaign must succeed.   The following email interview has been edited for length.   1) We live in a country which has a lot of knowledge and intellect but lags behind in skill. How vast is the problem that we face and how necessary is it for India to equip and train its workers? Has the problem gotten better or worse in the last year?   It is beyond doubt that there is abundance of intellect in our country but no intellectual can be successful if he is not equipped with the right skills to achieve his goals. The challenges in skill development are multi fold. The biggest challenge is the scale and reach we need to cover. India is a vast country and our population is scattered, hence the coverage for skill movement is the entire country. Sensitive areas like J&K, NE need a special focus.    The next challenge is to create awareness of skill development. The social stigma associated with vocational jobs is a big hindrance. Per a recent report by CII only about 34% of the youths graduating are employable. This means that about 2/3rd of our skill pool is not fit to have a job.    The good news is that, the government is fully aware of the situation and has taken several initiatives to accommodate roughly 4.3 million youth. We definitely are on the right path, but we have to go a long way.   2) China's workforce is expected to lose 6 million over the next decade because of its ageing population. At such a juncture, how ready is India to step up and provide skilled workforce to realize the Prime Minister's dream of the country being a manufacturing and export powerhouse?     India’s population is growing at a high rate, 65% of India’s human resource pool is aged under-35 and about 12 million such individuals expected to join the workforce every year. This is an unprecedented opportunity. Estimates say that if this huge workforce is trained and directed properly, it could help in adding up to 2-3% to our GDP.      The government, industry and academia need to work together to skill 110 million people - the incremental number of people who need to be skilled, by 2022 as per latest skilled manpower requirement studies commissioned by NSDC.   The NSDC which is a PPP between the government and the industry has enabled formation of the Sector Skills Councils for encourage greater participation from the private sector which is an essential partner in the skill development ecosystem.    The last few years have been spent in capacity building through its vast network of private training providers and training centers. Efforts have been made in the direction to support economic policies like “Make in India” to enable investment, Industrial Corridors, Smart Cities etc. which would be the drivers of economic development of the country.    As I said earlier, there is a lot to be done yet, since all these policy-level changes are only as good as their active deployment on the ground.   3) What is the reason for this lack of skill? Why are some professions like electricians and plumbers looked down on in our country and others looked up on? Do you think a change in mindset is required?   There is a false sense of idea that manual labour is undignified and this is deeply rooted in the societal norms, culture and values of our country. Hence vocational jobs or professions like electricians, plumbers, welders etc. are not preferred jobs. Thus, vocational education is seen as narrow and restrictive of a student’s potential.   Aspirational value of these jobs in India is too low. People who are not academically good or who get dropped out of formal education are forced to go for either vocational education or as unskilled workers. Their job choice is out of coercion and not based on their interest or aspiration or skillsets.   This could be because of lack of a stable income from such jobs. Most of the people aspire to take up government jobs because of the stability and security the government job offers. It could also be due to the vast income difference between a highly aspired job like and engineer versus a so-called “low level” job of an auto mechanic.   A change is mindset is definitely required but it is also necessary to make vocational skills aspirational. For example, we all know about “MasterChef” competition. Why can’t we have a “Master Plumber” or “Master Carpenter”?    NSDC and the Ministry of Labour have recently launched a show on Doordarshan called Hunnarbaaz. Hunnarbaaz showcases real workers across various sectors to instill a feeling of inspiration and interest amongst the audience.    4) How is the present scenario of attrition in public and private companies? Does India have enough skilled force to replace the number of people that retire and leave their jobs every year?   As per industry experts, the attrition level across sectors is likely to rise to up to 20 % in 2015. This is a result of the improved economic scenario and mainly because of “Make in India” campaign, I believe. Sectors like IT/ITeS will see higher attrition level and industries like pharmaceuticals, FMCG, aviation, agriculture will have lesser attrition.    The manufacturing sector has always faced the least attrition rate but with the “Make in India” approach of the government, this sector might lead in attrition levels in 2016.    The current size of the workforce in India both in the formal and informal sector stands at approximately 500 million. Around 12 million people including two million graduates enter the workforce every year.   To answer the second part of the question, there is a much larger issue at hand. Currently, we only have a capacity to train 4.3 million people annually. The newly formed Ministry, NSDA and NSDC, through their numerous initiatives, are working towards meeting this shortfall.   5)  Any collaborations with foreign Governments and institutions and how will it benefit India in skilling up?   We have undertaken quite a few collaborations in the form of MOUs with various countries, more notably the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, USA, Bahrain and Iran.   In the United Kingdom, the NSDC has signed MOUs with the UK Association of Colleges and the UK Commission on Employment and Skills for building training capacity, international benchmarking in certifications and supporting SSCs and other skill initiatives in India.   In Germany, an MOU has been signed with IMOVE (International marketing of Vocational Education) for fostering private sector participation.   With the United States, a MOU has been signed with US- India Business Council (USIBC) to facilitate US corporates to set up and support skill development centres in India.    6) Young India is currently going through a transition phase where youngsters are experimenting with the array of job opportunities in various fields that are available to them. In your opinion, what does 'Young India' want and what does it need?   Our mindsets about aspirational jobs have been gradually changing. There was a time when almost everyone wanted government jobs as having a government job was a mark of respect. Later on, other jobs like bank jobs or teaching / professor jobs were considered to be amongst the stable ones.   In the last few decades, doctors, engineers and especially software professionals were looked upon as the most desirable jobs. However, in the recent times, I have seen young Indians are increasingly getting attracted towards non-conventional or unusual jobs. They are interested to pursue options which are different that the mainstream jobs. Jobs as a chef, or in photography, dance, fashion technology, film and media, e-commerce, event management, are increasingly getting attention.   I think Young India wants jobs that have a high aspiration value, jobs offering different and challenging work. Hence it is necessary that young India is aware of all such job options that they have. They need to have access to get trained or skilled in a trade of their choice and available locally.  Some may have funds problem and hence they would need funds available as grants or loans to pursue training. Many young Indians aspire to start their own small ventures.   We also need to change our outlook towards jobs by hands. All jobs that enable a person to earn a decent and sustainable livelihood should be looked upon as dignified jobs.
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