Skill India: New Skills Development Initiatives in India
In the past four years of the new Indian government (2014–2018), there has been a plethora of changes in the skills system in India. There is a new Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE); a new campaign to “Skill India” has re-established the goal to train over 400 million people by 2022; a new National Skill Development Mission with its brand “Skill India” has been set up; and a host of new acronyms covering apprenticeship, qualifications, quality assurance, labor market data, and national and overseas skills has been launched. Most of these are explained in the new document, National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, of 2015.
The chapter analyses the new skills environment in India and asks whether it has been able to begin to address many of the very long-standing characteristics of skills in India.
Despite the renewed ambition of India to skill a mass of its own people and to provide the surplus of these young skilled people to the aging developed nations of the world, there is little evidence in the new mission that the crucial lessons and experiences from the last government’s skills mission and skills development initiative have been taken on board. The question remains whether the modification of skill development in India consists of renaming many of the approaches to the endemic features of skill in India or whether it constitutes a determination to break with the past.
KeywordsSkills development National skills development policy Skills targets Skills training schemes
The New Government’s “Skill India” Campaign
The new government came to power in May 2014. The reform and modification of skill training in India began soon after. What substantially has changed since May 2014?
In his very first address in the Lok Sabha (Parliament) on 11 June 2014, the new prime minister pledged to redeem the image of the country from the allegations about “Scam India” to “Skill India” and to enhance its stature nationally, through “cooperative federalism” among the central, state, and local governments (Narendra Modi 2014). While laying out the mandate of the newly formed government, he said “Only a graduation certificate is not enough (sic). We need skills. We need to concentrate on skill development (Narendra Modi 2015).
Acknowledging the formidable scale of this challenge, the government notified the creation of the first dedicated Department of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship on 31 July 2014. The prime minister commented “Today the world focuses on trade in goods but in future the core issue will be how to get skilled people. We need to work in this direction” (Financial Express 2015).
The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) – This was a public-private partnership company setup in 2010 under the aegis of the Ministry of Finance, and its aim was to make a significant contribution to the overall target of skilling and upskilling 500 million people in India by 2022. This would be mainly done by fostering private sector initiatives in skill development programs.
The National Skills Development Agency (NSDA) (As of October 2018, the NSDA has been merged with the National Council for Vocational Training to form the National Council for Vocational Education and Training.) – This was an autonomous body which had come into existence on 6th June 2013. It subsumed the then Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development (PMNCSD), the National Skill Development Coordination Board (NSDCB), and the Office of the Adviser to PM on Skill Development. The NSDA’s role included anchoring the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) and facilitating the setting up of professional certifying bodies in addition to the existing ones.
National Skills Development Fund (NSDF) (2015, MSDE, National Skill Development Funds) – This was set up in 2009 by the Government of India for raising funds both from government and nongovernment sectors for skill development in the country. The fund is contributed by various government sources and other donors/contributors to enhance, stimulate, and develop the skills of Indian youth by various sector-specific programs. A public trust set up by the Government of India is the custodian of the fund.
National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development (NIESBUD) – This was an autonomous institute which was part of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). This move under MSDE provided a strong link of skill development with entrepreneurship and prompting start-ups.
On 16 April 2015, the Training Directorate, part of the Directorate General of Employment and Training (DGET) under the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), was also moved to MSDE. With this Directorate, the entire network of industrial training institutes (ITIs) and apprenticeship training schemes became part of the MSDE.
The MSDE structure thus became complete by moving all the most important players in skill training from different departments and ministries to be under one roof. The DGT, as it is now called, and NSDC together had the target of training 250 million youth in different skills as per the then existing National Skill Development Policy of March 2009, which was 50% of the total skill development target (500 million) of the then Singh government (2015 MSDE 2009)
The desire to project the identity of the country as “skilled India” could be considered as one of the most significant developments driven by the prime minister in the field of skill training in India. With a ministry of its own, skill training has become a “National Agenda.” The biggest challenge of fragmented approaches and lack of adequate focus and coordination faced by skill training in India since 2007–2008, when multiple structures under different roofs (DGET under Ministry of Labour and Employment, NSDC under Ministry of Finance, NSDA under the former Planning Commission, etc.,) were set up, was now being resolved. Coordination and consolidation of skill training could now be driven and included in the policy decisions to be taken by the MSDE. A new skill ecosystem was being created in the country.
The first Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship assumed charge of the newly formed Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) on 11 November 2014. Following the vision of the prime minister, he affirmed that Skill Development would play a critical role in fulfilling the objectives of the prime minister’s Skill India campaign and that the ministry would coordinate with other ministries/departments to achieve the mission of skilling India (Business Standard 2014).
The minister stressed the importance of the rationalization of the existing skill development schemes and outlined specific deliverables for the short-, medium-, and long term for the ministry. He restated that the ministry was expected to play a key role in reaping the “demographic dividend” in the country. This is India’s claim to have a unique 25-year window of opportunity, when it will have the world’s youngest workforce, much younger than China or the OECD countries.
The minister affirmed that there would be a positive contribution from “Skill India” to the prime minister’s “Make in India” campaign. The latter aimed to make India a global manufacturing hub. Clearly, “Make in India” cannot succeed if India is not able to provide its own well-trained workforce; and “Skill India” would succeed only if the skilled youth are appropriately employed after training. Accordingly, the “Make in India” and “Skill India” campaigns are expected to be well-linked, and they should closely support each other; one would enhance the economy by inviting global organizations to set up their manufacturing units in India, while the other would provide well-trained manpower to be employed in these manufacturing units, supporting integration of more and more skilled labor into the system. After all, skill development cannot be pursued in isolation from production and employment.
On 15 July 2015, when MSDE celebrated the first World Youth Skills Day, the prime minister launched the Skill India campaign (Press Information Bureau 2015). In his address, he gave the country a vision. He said that in the twenty-first century, India’s industrial training institutes (ITIs) would acquire global recognition for producing quality skilled manpower. He called for constant updating of training programs and syllabi to ensure that the youth is exposed to the latest technology and industry environment. He said the government would work to promote both apprenticeship and entrepreneurs. He declared that it is important to predict the possibilities of the future and prepare for them today.
The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015
The National Skill Development Mission
The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY); and
The Skill Loan scheme
One concern in reviewing these would be whether they would take account of the fact that 93% of the Indian economy is in what India terms the unregistered or unorganized sector of the economy, or that, in this vast informal economy, skills are basically acquired on the job, often moving from casual labor to different levels of skill, again unregistered and unrecognized.
The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015
The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 (hereafter Policy 2015) supersedes the National Policy for Skill Development, 2009 (Policy 2009) (2015, MSDE, GOI [Government of India] 2009). The Policy 2009 was the first ever policy document for skills development in India. The document was developed, under the previous government, for the then DGET with support of the ILO. The document also mentioned that it should be reviewed and updated in 5 years’ time. Accordingly, the National Policy on Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015 has done justice to this pledge.
On substantive issues, the Policy 2015 does not miss any points from Policy 2009 including the vertical mobility, interministerial coordination, incentivizing the private sector for increasing their participation in skill training, financial support to candidates seeking skill training, addressing the unorganized sector, and use of digital platforms. Most other developments like the recognition of prior learning (ILO Report 2014), National Skill Qualification Framework, pathways for vertical mobility of ITI trained youth, Institutes for the Training of Trainers (IToT), etc., which were already in place by 2014, have also been covered in the Policy 2015. The Policy 2015 captured the state of skill development in the country at that time but rationalized it by bringing realistic targets.
What is new in Policy 2015 is its emphasis on the term “aspirational” for skills training. Aspirational applies to both youth and employers whereby youth sees it as a matter of choice and employers acknowledge both the productivity linked to skilled workforce by paying the requisite premium, and they recognize the link to Make in India (2015, MSDE, National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015a). The same message is further reflected in the new focus of the policy. Policy 2015 is about “meeting the challenge of skilling at scale with speed, standard (quality) and sustainability”; Policy 2009 focused more on “rapid and inclusive growth”(2015, MSDE, GOI [Government of India] 2009, para 4.0.1, p. 23).
The most notable shift in Policy 2015 was the change in the quantitative skilling targets. When launching the “Skill India” campaign, in July 2015, the prime minister announced the new target for Skill India was 400 million persons to be trained in different skills by 2022. This was certainly a substantial reduction from the previous government’s 500 million.
This was not just a reduction in the target by 20%, but also the Policy 2015 made it clear that of these 400 million, those who are new entrants to labor market and require skill training are only around 26%. The remaining approximately 74% of the 400 million (298.25 million) are those who may require different approaches like recognition of prior learning (RPL), reskilling, upskilling, and skilling of the existing unskilled workforce, especially those below 45 years of age. This reformulation was a new and substantial change.
In fact, until April 2015, when the Ministry for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) had come into existence, the target for skilling continued to be referred to as 500 million. An example of this is seen in the report of the subgroup of the Chief Minister on Skill Development (Report of the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Skill Development 2015), a group appointed by the NITI AAYOG (The National Institution for Transforming India – a new form of the previous Planning Commission of India), which met in April 2015 to discuss and put their thoughts together on various aspects of Skill Development in the states. The report of this subgroup, published in September 2015, still mentioned the skilling target as 500 million (Ibid, p. 24, para 2.38)
The specific skill training targets under Policy 2009 were always a point of discussion under the previous government. The authenticity and source of the numbers were queried. The current government’s specific skilling targets are also already being reconsidered by the MSDE. In a press conference held on 8 June 2017, the senior officials of MSDE said “We don’t want to chase any number. Whether it is 150 million by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and 350 million by ministries – we are delinking it, not attaching any number” (Livemint 2017). MSDE also refused to spell out a new number that the Union government and its 22 departments and ministries will each be set to attain.
As the new ministry, MSDE, also focuses on entrepreneurship, the Policy 2015 reflects this focus and has a full set of separate objectives for entrepreneurship. These include the organizing of a “world class entrepreneurship education curriculum” through thousands of Entrepreneurship Hubs in colleges, as well as national and state level (2015, MSDE, National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015b).
It is noteworthy that the Policy 2015 does acknowledge the fact that 93% of India’s workforce is in the unorganized sector and also that there is an unrecognized apprenticeship system or on-the-job training system operating in this informal sector. It is assumed in the Policy that the recognition of prior learning (RPL) system will take care of their formal certification.
National Skill Development Mission 2015
Although there had been a National Skill Development Mission from 2009 (2012: Government launched a National Skill Development Mission in the Eleventh Five Year Plan) under the previous government, the new government’s National Skill Development Mission 2015 is the first to focus policy on creating convergence across sectors and states in terms of skill training activities. As per the MSDE, “… To achieve the vision of ‘Skilled India’, the National Skill Development Mission would not only consolidate and coordinate skilling efforts, but also expedite decision-making across sectors to achieve skilling at scale with speed and standards. It provides the institutional mechanism for achieving the objectives of the Mission” (2015, MSDE National Skill Development Mission).
By contrast, the mission 2009 focused on issues including remodelling India’s formal apprenticeship scheme, improvement in accreditation and certification systems, reorienting curriculum on continuous basis, and establishing an institutional mechanism for providing access to information about a skill inventory and skill map on real-time basis (2012 Skill Development Mission). The Skill Mission 2015 has a similar focus, presented differently: “To rapidly scale up skill development efforts in India, by creating an end-to-end, outcome-focused implementation framework, which aligns demands of the employers for a well-trained skilled workforce with aspirations of Indian citizens for sustainable livelihoods” (MSDE: National Skill Development Mission). There is a greater urgency in achieving outcomes and securing convergence across institutions in the mission statement 2015.
The implementation framework stipulated in Mission 2015 is new and is built on the new structures – MSDE is the driver of the Mission, a Governing Council for policy guidance at the apex level, a Steering Committee, and a Mission Directorate (along with an Executive Committee) as the executive arm of the Mission. The Mission Directorate is further supported by the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), and the Directorate General of Training (DGT) – all of which will have horizontal linkages with the Mission Directorate to facilitate smooth functioning of the national institutional mechanism.
With MSDE in place, the structures for implementation of the Skill Mission 2015 were already set. The Secretary of MSDE was to provide the requisite leadership and the linkages among the three pillars – NSDA, NSDC, and DGT.
The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) (The Prime Minister’s Skill Development Scheme)
As part of the Skill India Campaign, PMKVY has been included as the flagship scheme of the MSDE. Popularly referred to as “Skill Certification Scheme,” the scheme aims at enabling a large number of Indian youth to take up industry-relevant skill training that will help them in securing a better livelihood. The scheme implementation lies with National Skill Development Cooperation (see below).
PMKVY is actually a re-worked version of the existing National Skill Certification and Monetary Reward Scheme, popularly branded as STAR (Standards Training Assessment and Reward) which was an incentive-based skill development model. STAR was introduced on 16 August 2013 by the previous government with a budget outlay of INR 10 billion (USD 156.1 million) and a target to motivate 1 million youth to acquire vocational skill during the first year of its implementation.
PMKVY was introduced in a much bigger way – a corpus of INR 15 billion ($ 225 million), which was a 50% increase, and target of covering 2.4 million persons, which included 1.4 million youth to be skilled and 1 million workers who would be certified under RPL (recognition of prior learning). Under the scheme, a monetary reward of INR 8000 (USD 124.9) is provided to trainees on successful completion and certification of their skill training courses.
The scheme is hosted by NSDC (see below), and the training is imparted against national occupation standards (NOSs) for specific job roles, formulated by industry-driven bodies, namely, the Sector Skill Councils. Trainees with prior experience or skills and competencies are also assessed against NOSs, and candidates get monetary rewards against successful assessments. It facilitates the process of skill upgradation and reskilling of the existing workforce. A live PMKVY dashboard has been set up which gives the number of persons enrolled and trained at any point of time.
The STAR scheme of the previous government had evolved from the then flagship scheme, the Modular Employable Scheme (MES), associated with the ILO, under the Skill Development Initiatives (SDI). MES-SDI scheme was an immensely popular initiative among both the youth and industry. It overshot the target set in the 11th Plan by close to 40%. In July 2013, 1433 course modules had been developed covering a variety of trades and 7000 Vocational Training Providers along with 46 Assessing Bodies registered.
In early 2013, ILO was requested by then DGET to strengthen the implementation of the SDI-MES scheme. After a series of meetings, a review workshop in Bhopal, and follow-up interviews, ILO submitted a report which included key issues and recommendations (ILO Report by Astha Ummat: SDI-MES feedback from the ground 2013). Most of these recommendations have since been adopted in the PMKVY.
Implementation of the scheme was shifted from the states to NSDC. NSDC used its established network of Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) to implement the same.
- SSCs, autonomous bodies, tasked with developing a robust training delivery mechanism, were invited to partner PMKVY and take responsibility for:
Affiliation of the vocational training partner (VTP) – a task which was earlier with DGT (MSDE – NSN – Sector Skill Councils in India)
Training the trainers of these VTP
Supporting assessment of the trainees (fee based)
In PMKVY, the VTPs submit proposals to SSCs for conducting training programs. Registered VTPs are mandated to submit the biometric attendance of the trainees and trainers, as well as a detailed monitoring report to SSCs on the designated portal on regular basis.
The Sector Skill Councils are allotted training targets by NSDC, which are then distributed among their affiliated VTPs.
This change is seen as a large contribution toward promoting a sustainable business model for Sector Skill Councils, which were set up under the previous government. Selected states which wanted to continue the MES have been allowed to do so under the State Skill Development Mission (MORD DDU-GKY- State Skill Development Missions).
Under the PMKVY, skill training is being provided in 221 courses over 34 different industrial verticals (groups of industry having similar processes and may have similar skill needs) through authorized training centers. As per the Government of India report of 6th June 2018, since its launch, close to 5 million candidates have been trained under the PMKVY so far (1.9 million under PMKVY 1 and 2.75 million under PMKVY 2, 2016–2020). PMKVY targets to train 10 million youth by 2020 (2.5 Crore trained under Skill India in 3 years under Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship programs).
In addition, 933,000 youth have been oriented under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) program of PMVKY which recognizes and certifies skills acquired through informal means, bringing about a major shift from the unorganized to the organized economy. Under the fee-based skill training, the number of training centers has increased to 11,035, and close to 10 million youth have been trained so far (ibid).
This is a marked increase from the 703,535 persons which were reported to have been trained/tested under the Modular Employable Scheme of the former government from April to December 2013 (Outcome Budget 2013–2014 of the MoL&E).
The Skill Loan Scheme
This scheme which aims to provide financial support to the eligible candidates for undertaking skill training programs has been in place since 2012. The then existing model loan scheme for vocational education and training had the approval of the Indian Banking Association (LiveMint, IBA approves vocational education loan scheme 2012). As per the scheme, no collateral security from students was required and there was no age bar for availing of the loan. The focus was on enabling interested youth to undertake skill training. The skill loan amount was in the range of INR 20,000 (312.2 USD) to INR 150,000 (2341 USD) with a variable interest rate. The list of expenses which could be included under the loan covered all elements considered necessary for completion of the course.
This very same Skill Loan Scheme was relaunched by the present government as part of the Skill India campaign on 15 July 2015 with just a minor change in the range of the loan amount (Skill Loan Scheme, PIB Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015). The minimum amount of loan has, in the new scheme, come down to INR Rs. 5000 (78 USD), and the rate of interest has been specified as a simple rate of interest at 11% and 12% per annum charged during the period of study.
The Modification of Skill Training: A Journey Over the Last 4 Years
What has really changed over the last 4 years? Is the current government’s Skill India just a modification of the previous one’s? Is the Skill India Mission only renaming many of the approaches to the endemic challenges of skill in India, or does it constitute a determination to break with the past?
In this part of the paper, we review this key question. The information source is primarily the press releases and feedback received from the practitioners.
Skill development under the present government has taken a priority with a hope that the Skill India Mission will supply huge human resources not only in India but also internationally. Undoubtedly, a massive restructuring of the Skill Development ecosystem has been undertaken at the national level. However, the policy decisions undertaken so far seem to be more on upscaling what was already in action.
One aspect evident across all the current approaches of skill development is a sense of urgency and of achieving the target numbers. However, the targets laid down in many cases are far higher than can be possibly achieved. And to make these closer to the real situation, conditions are sometimes altered, thereby reducing the intended impact.
Some approaches seem to open doors for the early school leavers, while others don’t. But the overarching fact remains that all the decisions are in favor of those who are digitally empowered – whether they be the training providers or the youth. It can be argued that there is thus a bias against skills for poorer sections and for rural areas.
The service sector has also been given a space of its own in the skill agenda of the government by allowing them to participate in the National Apprenticeship Promotion Schemes (see further below).
However, Skill India has so far not focused sufficiently on the quality aspects of skill system; and the government seems to be quite aware of this. In May 2012, the subcommittee of the National Council of Vocational Training (NCVT) (DGET-39th NCVT Order) for norms and courses was reconstituted and orders for revision/revamping of the craftsmen training courses issued. Almost all the craftsmen training courses (MSDE-DGT: List of courses under Craftsmen Training Scheme) under NCVT, being implemented in industrial training institutes, were last revised in 2014. Then, the Mentor Councils (MCs), having representatives from thought leaders among various stakeholders considered relevant for the particular trade, were set up to support the revamp/modification of the courses. No major revision of curricula has been undertaken since then. The only change in some of the courses undertaken, since 2014, has been giving a NSQF reference to these courses.
In November 2016, the approval for establishing Mentor Committees (Government approves creation of sector mentor committees – The Economic Times 2015) (new name for the Mentor Councils) has been given by MSDE. However, if the pace of curricular revision remains the same as earlier, the revised version would most likely not be available for implementation any time before April–May 2019 when the general election is taking place.
While celebrating the first two years of Skill India, the MSDE minister announced that “This year we will focus extensively on quality; our schemes and programmes have to orient themselves to seek regional balance so that maximum number of people can reap the benefit and add to their personal and the country’s economic growth……Our endeavour will be to give wings to the dreams of our people and empower them to be successful in their life [sic]” (Press Information Bureau – MSDE celebrates Second Anniversary of Skill India Mission).
Let us look at the major schemes under “Skill India” and find what really changed over the last four years and also what does this mean for India’s Skills Mission. As will become clear, several of the initiatives of Skill India are apparently reworking of earlier initiatives, while a few are continuing as they were. A snapshot of these is presented below.
National Skill Qualification Framework
The National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) in India was notified on 27 December 2013, superseding the then existing frameworks, which also included the National Vocational Educational Qualification Framework developed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (NSQF (MHRD [GOI], NSQF Notification). It was further agreed that NSDA, which is mandated to coordinate and harmonize all skill development efforts of the Government of India and the private sector, would anchor and operationalize the NSQF.
The NSQF, it was stated, would lead to an outcome-based approach in learning – both in the general and vocational space – provide transparent progression pathways, establish equivalence of certificates/diplomas/degrees, support in development of quality qualification with formal certification that also permits acquisition of higher qualifications, facilitate recognition of prior learning and promote international mobility, as well as credit accumulation and transfer system.
The NSQF, having been formally notified in December 2013 under the former government, was still a new topic when the new government came to office. There were already many commentators who wrote in favor of the idea of adopting NSQF; but there were equally a good number of critical views which argued against having the single framework for the country which is full of diversities and contains a huge unorganized sector.
In an interview in the Economics Times in April 2015, the then MSDE minister stated that “By 2020 an educational qualification will not be enough. You would need an NSQF to apply for any vacancy in the government” (The Economic Times 2015). The recruitment rules that the Government of India and Public Sector Units (PSUs) of the central government use will be altered so that the eligibility criteria can be defined in NSQF levels. State governments and PSUs will be asked to amend the rules for the same. All the skill training programs are being aligned to the NSQF. Courses that are not compliant to NSQF will not receive any government funding. Training and educational institutions that are funded by the government will also define their eligibility criteria in NSQF levels.
Regardless of the critics’ views, the implementation of NSQF was intensified over the last four years. However, no major quality change in the qualification packs (QPs) and the National Occupational Standards (NOSs) which form the NSQF has been notified in last four years.
In 2015, after the formation of the MSDE and the launch of Skill India, the MSDE set up a committee under the then retired Director General of Employment and Training, to rationalize and optimize the functioning of the Sector Skill Councils. The seven member committee included authorities on vocational education and training in India. In its report, the committee noted that the level descriptors given in the NSQF lack clarity and objectivity. The report further mentions that “NSQF is quite technical and even the so called professionals do not understand it properly and therefore, there should be a sensitization and communication campaign with the help of seminars, workshops, etc. to educate all concerned about the nuances of each aspect” (2017 MSDE – Report of the Committee for Rationalization & Optimization of the Functioning of the Sector Skill Councils 2016).
An important element in a framework is its acceptance in the employment market and its link to remuneration benchmarking. As of now, the NSDA, the NSDC, and also the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) which are responsible for implementation of NSQF do not have an answer to the monetary or other advantage a candidate would have on moving from one level to another. This raises the question – If the workforce with higher levels of achievement on the NSQF is not paid a higher wage, will skills development initiatives not be diluted? How will skills become aspirational in the language of Policy 2015?
Incentivising Skill Training for the Private Sector
Skill training became a sensitive issue for India already in 2010. It was realized that skill training would become attractive for the poor and excluded communities only when the youth from these communities are compensated for the time they spend in the training institutes and also that the private sector would participate in skill training only when they see larger benefits in doing so.
Subsidized soft loans and financial assistance for skill development initiatives
Service tax exemption for units engaged in skill development
Private sector income tax benefits by donating money to NSDC for skill development activity
Benefit from the Income Tax Act through participating in skill development activity
Besides, under the Companies Act 2013, it was already made mandatory for larger companies to spend at least 2% of their average net profits made during the three immediately preceding financial years on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities and/or report the reason for non-expenditure. The term “Large Companies” here refers to companies with an annual turnover of INR 1000 crore (USD 156.21 million) and more, or a net worth of INR 500 crore (USD 78.1 million) and more, or a net profit of INR 500 crore (USD 78.1 million) or more during any financial year.
The CSR activities include “employment enhancing vocational skills”. The phrase “employment enhancing vocational skills” under CSR is further clarified as the following – “Spending in Technical and Vocational Training for skill building based on training cum apprenticeship results in enhancing the employability of such trainees” (Frequently Asked Questions On the provisions of Corporate Social Responsibility under Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013 and Rules thereon). The cost of expenses such as stipend, faculty, infrastructure costs, etc. will be included as CSR activities. It will not deprive the company which is providing such training from hiring a trainee from that pool of talent. However, if such training is provided to existing employees, then it will not qualify as CSR.
Besides the above possibilities, financial incentives in the form of reimbursement of training costs for participating in MES (now PKMVY) programs or short-term courses in partnership with NSDC were available to the private sector.
The present government continued to offer all these incentives extended to the private sector by the previous government. The MSDE minister in a press release on 11 December 2014 shared these initiatives again as an offer to incentivize the participation of the private sector in skill development (Press Information Bureau, GOI).
At the level of advocacy and agenda setting, both the prime minister and the MSDE minister have held meetings with the big industries, coaxing and persuading them actively to engage in skill training. This has intensified the participation of larger companies in skill training activities. Currently, a good number of big industries are active in such skill development – TATA, L & T, GE, Bajaj, Ashok Leyland, Reliance, and many more.
The monetary benefit of participating in skill training programs was initiated by the previous government in August 2013 with the introduction of an incentive-based skill development model under the National Skill Certification and Monetary Reward Scheme. An average monetary reward which the trainee received on successful completion of the training program was around INR 10,000 (USD 156) per candidate.
The present government has taken this scheme seriously, and, as of today, almost all the courses other than the ITI programs are linked with financial incentives. On successful completion of training under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), the candidate receives a certificate as well as a monetary reward, which depends on the job role she/he undertook and the job role levels. On an average, the candidate gets INR 8.000 (USD 125) on successful completion of the course. Even in the other component of PMKVY, which is the RPL (recognition of prior learning), the candidates, on successful completion, get certificates as well as monetary rewards. The same is the case with another large scheme – DDU-GKY, to which we now turn.
Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) (GOI): (Deen Dayal Upadhyay Rural Skill Development Scheme)
DDU-GKY, implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and another flagship scheme of the present government, has been a clear case of the renaming of an earlier scheme. This scheme was being successfully implemented under the former government as a placement-linked skill scheme known as “Aajeevika” (“livelihood”). The Aajeevika was launched under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) in June 2011 by the then government mainly to address the skill training needs of the rural youth and extend to them placement-linked training. The scheme was found very successful especially by industry. Possibly, this is because it was the only scheme that mandated inclusion of generic life skills including basic English, IT, and soft skills in the training program, which are considered essential skills by the industry.
On 25 September 2014, under the new government, Aajeevika was relaunched as a promotional scheme, named DDU-GKY, and focusing on training rural youth for jobs. The scheme in its current version recommends use of technology in implementation and monitoring of projects; it also adds incentives for the trainees. DDU-GKY, through its training partners, has also employed use of biometrics, a modernized way of checking attendance of both the trainer and the trainees. In addition, DDU-GKY as part of its management process and requirements ensures that all training partners invest in IT infrastructure for sharing real-time performance data as well as for connecting with potential employers.
Given DDU-GKY’s special status, it entails financial support of INR 1000.00 (USD 15) to the candidate placed during the initial 2–3 months. To incentivize the youth for enrolling in the DDU-GKY program, candidates are provided free training, free uniform, free course material, free lodging and board in case of residential programs, reimbursements of transport expenses in nonresidential programs, placement for at least 70% of all those trained with a minimum salary of INR 6000.00 (USD 93) per month (as cost to company), and post placement salary top-ups every month of INR 1000.00 (USD 15) for 2–6 months depending on location of placement.
As per the DDU-GKY web page, the scheme is presently being implemented in 21 states and Union Territories, across 568 districts, impacting youth from over 6215 blocks. It currently has over 690 projects being implemented by over 300 partners, in more than 330 trades from 82 industry sectors (National Skills Network).
In the financial year 2015–2016, around 236,000 candidates were trained, and of these, around 110,000 were placed in jobs. However, in the financial year 2016–2017, the number of trained youth went down to 163,000 candidates, of which 148, 000 were placed. In 2017–2018, the number was further reduced to about 131,000 trained of which only 76,000 were placed (Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana).
The then MSDE minister, in answer to a parliamentary question in December 2014 (GOI, Press Information Bureau), stated that it is estimated that there are nearly 80–100 million (which is more than the 55 million included in the scheme document) youth in the age group of 15–35 years who can be skilled to join the workforce. The DDU-GKY has identified this group for skill development.
One key feature which has been part of the revised schemes is the extensive use of the Internet. Both the schemes, PMKVY and DDU-GKY, require transfer of live biometric data and monitoring details on a daily basis. This development of using Internet for scheme governance and monitoring has also been extended from these two short-term schemes to the long-term training schemes. In the case of both the Craftsmen Training Scheme (which is being offered through the Industrial Training Institutes) and the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme, the enrolment and the registration are on their portals.
Though this is seen as a positive development, it does not match with the realities of India. India’s Internet penetration is not even close to 50%. Hence, many youth, and mostly the needy ones, are being excluded from these social schemes. According to a report of March 2017 (Media Nama 2017), urban India has close to 60% Internet penetration, while rural India is still at 17%. With these conditions, these schemes which rely highly on the real-time data are a big challenge to implement.
What Has Been Really New in the Government’s Last 4 Years?
Paving the Way for Vertical and Lateral Movement for the ITI Trainees
Opening opportunities for higher qualifications to the ITI trainees: As a vertical pathway for the ITI trainees, MSDE has proposed to set up a separate education board which could offer the ITI graduates, class X and XII certificates. This proposal has been recently approved (Times of India 2017). The academic certificates issued to the ITI graduates would be acknowledged by all the central authorities including the All India Council for Technical Education, Central Board for Secondary Education, and state education boards. Through this, matriculate ITI pass students, having spent 2 years on their ITI course, would not have to pursue secondary school completion (commonly referred as 10 + 2 in India) but will be able directly to get admission in colleges in the first year of undergraduate program.
MSDE is still under the process of moving under its responsibility, 23,000 polytechnic colleges with 1.6 million engineering students and another 4 significant central skill development programs run by various ministries (The Indian Express 2017).
Opening of lateral pathways in training and upward mobility of students – Components of the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS) for graduates from the department of higher education, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) are under consideration for transfer to MSDE. These include the Community Development training polytechnics and the “spinning & weaving” trades (All 23,000 polytechnic colleges likely to come under skill development ministry 2017).
The Directorate General of Training (DGT), MSDE in May 2017 announced the launch of high-end diploma courses in welding technology, industrial electronics and automation, manufacturing technology, automotive technology and IT, networking, and cloud computing. As stated by the then minister MSDE, the need for advanced level courses/specialized courses has been long felt in the vocational training landscape in the country. The courses are of 2-year duration and were introduced from August to September 2017 at National Skill Training Institutes (NSTIs), DGT training institutes for advanced skill training. These courses would enable trainees to acquire cutting-edge training by providing an opportunity to sharpen their hands-on skills in specialized areas. One fourth of the training period is dedicated to on-the-job training in the form of an industrial attachment. Such decisions, according to the DGT, will extend the skill pyramid beyond the current vocational training provision.
In April 2018, in a daylong State Ministers Conference, new courses to promote emerging skill areas, like artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, etc., were launched for ITI youth in collaboration with NASSCOM (National Association of Software Services Companies) (Our aim is to ensure one ITI in every block).
Taken as a whole, the preceding initiatives promise substantially to alter the positioning and reputation of skills training in India.
Acknowledging the Need of Experts to Envision, Plan, and Implement Skill Training
With the formation of the MSDE, an initiative was taken to create a separate cadre of experts who could envision, plan, and implement skill training. Setting up of this separate cadre is an attempt to attract young and talented administrators for skill development.
In January 2017, the MSDE issued the formal notification for setting up of a new cadre in India – the Indian Skill Development Service (ISDS) (PIB, GOI – Government issues notification of Indian Skill Development Services 2017). This service, created for the Training Directorate of the Ministry, would be able to attract qualified experts who will give new impetus to the initiatives of the government for skill development and also provide efficient and effective implementation of the many schemes just described. Through this service the skill landscape is expected to get strengthened and modernized in line with the current scientific and industrial development in the country. In years to come, the ministry will be able to create a workforce of trained skill administrators who will enable us to achieve the goal of increased skilled youths.
As a further marker of its increased status, the MSDE recently got three senior positions – it has in place additional secretaries responsible for DGT, NSDA, and MSDE.
Visibility and Promotion of Skill India Campaign
A new “Skill India” Logo was launched on 15 July 2015, giving it an identity of its own. Orders for wide use of this logo have been issued.
“Skill India” advertisements are commonly seen on the baggage tags at the airport, showing a colorful picture of youth in skill training.
Hoardings on “Skill India” with sector-specific skilled manpower needs until 2022 can be seen in many conspicuous locations – e.g., the Delhi Metro stations and inside the metros, in the bus stops, etc.
Even the press releases by the Public Information Bureau (PIB) have seen manifold increases. The largest number of press releases by the MSDE were seen in March 2015, when 26 press releases were issued. A number of web-news portals covering the day-to-day developments and news on skills training in the country have been launched as start-ups. The more popular ones are the Skills Reporter – India’s first skill start-up with the latest information on skill development, vocational education, and training (http://www.skillreporter.com) and the Skill Times from the National Skills Network (NSN) – a bi-weekly newsletter on skill development, training, employability, and entrepreneurship (www.nationalskillsnetwork.in).
Expanding the Skill Training Institutional Network
In December 2015, the Prime Minister’s Office directed skills ministry officials to open within one year 7000 new industrial training institutes (ITIs) or nearly half the number of all existing ITIs opened in India across six decades (Live Mint 2016). The government thus aimed at increasing by 50% the capacity of India’s then existing 13,105 ITIs (which included both government and private ITIs), having a training capacity of 1.86 million students in skills related to fabrication, electronics, and automobile industries, among much else.
As the government could not have opened 7000 ITIs on its own, the MSDE is undertaking multiple approaches – offering soft loans to private players to open ITIs and persuading companies operating in their respective areas to adopt old ITIs or open new ones. A full evaluation of the implementation of this ambition is still pending.
However, according to the DGT (data collected on 29 September 2017), the number of ITIs is 13,910, and the total training seats/capacity of these institutes (as given on NCVT MIS portal) is 2,978,478. As per the GOI press note dated 6th July 2018 (refer end note 34) since the inception of MSDE, there has been a 32% increase in the ITI count and a 54% increase in seating capacity since 2014.
Rationalization/Consolidation and the Quality Review
In 2015, the MSDE appointed a Committee on “Rationalization & Optimization of the functioning of the Sector Skill Councils” and to suggest reforms in the vocational education and training system. The committee (mentioned above) headed by the ex-Director General for Employment and Training (DGET) submitted their report which was placed on the MSDE’s website for comment and feedback. The committee gave 52 recommendations. It raised issues about the short-term courses, which are primarily offered through SSCs under PMKVY and DDUGKY, and it mentioned that the short-term courses should be discontinued; only long-term competency-based courses should be offered; the SSCs should be restructured, and much else. The question is – to what extent would MSDE act on the recommendations made in the report? So far very little or no action in this direction seems to have been initiated.
Some of the Recent Decisions Made by MSDE Raise Big Questions on the “Quality” Expectation in VET
It opened the door for enrolment of early school leavers as apprentices, provided these youth successfully undertook a minimum of three months of a basic training course in the classroom setup.
It incentivized employers who engaged apprentices by reimbursing 25% of prescribed stipend subject to a maximum of INR 1500.00 (USD 23) per month per apprentice to all employers who engage apprentices. In addition to these incentives, the organization which also offers basic training would be reimbursing the cost of basic training (up to a limit of INR 7500.00 (USD 117) for a maximum of 500 hours/3 months) by the Government of India.
The number of apprentices which could be engaged by employers increased to a maximum of 10% of the organization’s total employees as against the earlier existing 2.5%.
The monitoring of apprenticeship training by the government officers got relaxed – the tasks which apprentices would undertake in the industry would not be any longer monitored by the government. Though the apprenticeship training in its new form has opened doors to the medium and small industry and also the service sector enterprises, the dilution in monitoring may impact the quality of training in the longer run.
Here again, the entire process of registration for both the youth and the establishment under NAPS is through a dedicated portal. As per the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme progress report in July 2017, there was an increase in the number of establishments registered for apprenticeship by 282% – from 13,790 units already registered in August 2016, the NAPS portal has 33,272 units in July 2017. The number of apprentices registered also increased – from 113,000 apprentices in August 2016, the portal has 653, 000 youth registered in July 2017. The real impact on the ground – in the number of registered establishments which would actually engage apprentices; as well as the number of registered youths who get actually be engaged as apprentices, is far from clear. This might be due to complex issues faced by the NAPS portal which is being redesigned. The new portal is now under the administrative powers of NSDC.
Here again, the digitalization requirement raises questions on the Internet coverage in the rural areas and the fear of excluding the rural youth in NAPS; and above all, there is the risk of delays due to non-performance of the portal.
The MSDE continues to evolve in its design and structure. The work allocation between DGT and NSDC, especially as both these verticals are engaged in training, has been continuously changing. When MSDE was formed, it was agreed that all training less than six months would be the mandate of NSDC, while those longer than six months would remain with DGT. In April 2018, a part of the apprenticeship training got moved to NSDCs desk. Though on paper the distinction was clear, the reality was very different. As of today, NSDC is steering the apprenticeship portal and the apprenticeship training for private sector with new training areas and courses designed by the industry members, while the traditional apprenticeship training with designated trades is with DGT.
Is the Government’s Skill India Moving in the Right Direction?
A number of positive initiatives have been made under the present regime.
The emphasis on skill training, by forming a separate ministry for Skills Development and bringing under it the nodal institutes for Small Business and Enterprise Development, elucidates the importance given by the government to youth, employability, and entrepreneurship. As compared to being just a directorate, the ministry now has a strong agenda and deals with other ministries at par. A number of MOUs on Skill Development between MSDE and other ministries have been signed, clarifying the sectoral skill development agenda. Where possible, coordinated action for skill training is being promoted. An example of this convergence of central skill development schemes became visible when the responsibilities in skill development in polytechnics were transferred to MSDE in July 2017.
With a Skills minister at the leadership level, each initiative has become more compelling and has attracted larger visibility. Though the issues, more or less, are the same – strengthening coordination with state governments, launch of new training courses, restating the need of ITI in each district, accreditation, and self-grading exercise, the level at which these are addressed has made a big difference in its attainment. In addition, the Skill Development ministers from the states are regularly called for conference to deliberate on the skill issues (Our aim is to ensure one ITI in every block of the country by end 2018 and up-grade our skill institutions with market relevant skills – Dharmendra Pradhan).
The targets and budgets for skill development are now more focused and easier to measure. The MSDE expenditure of INR 21.73 billion or USD 339.97 million (revised estimates) in 2016–2017 got increased in the budget to INR 30.160 billion (USD 471.14 million) in 2017–2018.
Counting the two years in ITIs as equivalent to two years in general secondary has been an important step toward reducing the traditional divisions between vocational and academic pathways. It has also suggested that the ITI is not the end of the road but can connect with regular college.
Another prominent shift supported by the present government is the broadening of scope of the industries’ involvement, especially through apprenticeship training. The industries are now permitted to recruit apprentices up to 10% of their total employees’ strength. Some states like Maharashtra have extended this limit to 25%. But to encourage more companies to participate, the monitoring of the scheme has been diluted to a large extent. In fact, it could be argued that the apprenticeship scheme is being promoted as “getting cheap labor.”
However, the expected qualitative reforms in the skill training did not take place as expected. The report on restructuring of the VET by Sharda Committee recommended a long list of action points, which when implemented, would lead to quality skilled manpower. The industry continues to raise the issue of poorly trained youth and is feeling this gap to such an extent that some of the industries have set up their own training centers. This raises questions on the then established connection between the “Skill India” and “Make in India” missions, which were in 2015 announced on big platforms by all the political leaders.
Another aspect to be highlighted includes the financing of participation in skill training. As compared to only one skill training scheme being linked with financial rewards with the previous government, the current government has almost all the skill training initiatives (other than ITI courses) linked with financial rewards – be it to the private sector or to the trainee. The motivation and drivers to skill training seem to have changed. Is this the direction that would drive India to reach the dreams projected under “Skill India”? Is this the approach which would make skill training “aspirational” for the youth of the country? The innovative ideas which can provide the required and sustained impetus to Skill India – are these yet to be launched?
Some more questions confront us: whether the present government is a modifier or an innovator or a reformer in the area of skills development. Has it substantially restructured and reinvigorated the whole area of skills development or has it merely taken over and renamed skills initiatives from the previous regime?
As noted earlier, the new government was formed in June 2014; and the Skill India Mission was launched in July 2015. But over this period, has the skill training offers for the youth, the ultimate beneficiaries, remained the same as they were in early 2014 under the previous government? The setting up of the new ministry – MSDE – had raised high expectations for big reforms and a new direction to the India’s skill training system. However, many aspects of the skill training system remain unchanged. The launch of the Skill India mission in 2015 announced the training target as 400 million people in different skills by 2022. However, barely 40 million people have been trained by various stakeholders since then, including 25 million by the ministry of skill development (Government weighs legislation on right to skill training).
Also strongly linked with skill training is the job growth. Unfortunately, the job growth in the country in the last 4 years has not been very promising. Before sweeping to power in 2014, the new government appealed to young job seekers with a promise to create 10 million jobs. Four years later it remains unclear how many positions have been created. Yet more than 12 million Indians enter the workforce every year, as government data show (World’s fastest growth yet to make a mark on India’s job market 2018).
The new government saw back in the construction of Policy 2015 that the crucial issue was to make “quality vocational training aspirational both for youth and employers” (2015, MSDE, National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015a). This was always going to be a massive challenge in a country where caste has reinforced attitudes toward manual work for hundreds, even thousands, of years. The recognition that 93% of the workforce was in the informal sector and that there was an informal unrecognized apprenticeship system was an important starting point in Policy 2015. The creation of a stand-alone ministry for skills was a crucial step in the long road toward skills recognition. It will be vital also to follow the attempt to create a specialist cadre of officers – the Indian Skill Development Service – and a high-level National Institute of Skill Development to encourage the many different initiatives to build a new nationwide recognition of skill.
Ultimately, it will be these changes in the recognition of skill that will be vital rather than the crude numbers of skilled people, apprenticeships, and new ITIs. Securing world-class skills in just a few years is clearly a dream and especially so in a country where even the pursuit of world-class universities has been a challenge.
It is clearly too short a time for the government’s many plans and initiatives in skill development to take their desired shape. But it will certainly make sense to revisit the Indian skill training system in five years’ time and look back to see where the government had succeeded in this crucial first period with its ambitious and aspirational Skill India.
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