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Skilling – Collaboration Towards Positive Systemic Change

By April 17, 2018 No Comments

India is a rapidly growing economy and is expected to have the world’s largest workforce with a surplus of 47 million workers.  The World Bank estimates that more than 12 million youth between the ages of 15-29 years will enter India’s labour force every year over the next two decades. With growing automation of work and an economic shift from the manufacturing to the service sector, India is faced with the critical challenge of creating a workforce that is skilled to meet the changing nature and requirement of jobs. The Government’s ‘Skill India’ scheme has been framed to achieve the objective of creating a skilled global workforce. While skill development efforts have increased tremendously over the past decade, there are several roadblocks to realize its potential. In 2016-17 although the National Skill Development Council trained half a million people. Only 12% of the people trained were offered jobs and there is no clear data on how many of this 12% went on to join the workforce. Apart from the challenges of jobs not being created speedily enough and available jobs being of poor quality, lack of career counselling as a precursor to skilling and no post-placement counselling support are prevalent barriers in ensuring the sustainability of skilling initiatives.

Given the scale of the challenge, successful collaborations between local communities, governments, social entrepreneurs, NGOs and companies play a major role in meeting skill development priorities. Multi-stakeholder collaborations as a strategy for bringing about positive systemic change in skilling was the focus of one panel discussion conducted as part of UnLtd India’s Learning Journey series, Skilling Matters: Adapting to a Shifting Paradigm, co-hosted by J.P. Morgan.

This blog articulates the panel discussion on identifying areas of collaborations, and seeking ways to operationalize improvement in the provision of skilling through collaboration. The dialogue was built around four expected outcomes of collaboration to strengthen the skilling ecosystem.

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Collaboration is not only about funding and economic partnerships. The focus of collaboration should be on creating a workforce that can contribute to the economic growth of the country while at the same time securing financial stability along with good and decent living standards for trained candidates.

Collaboration will contribute technical and execution expertise to government efforts
The government, with its structured schemes and policies related to skill development, is the central stakeholder in the skilling sector today. However, the execution of such a macro-level initiative cannot be achieved by the government alone. It requires a strong public-private partnership (PPP) model with the government at the centre and other stakeholders like skill training partners, monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) consultants, recruiting organisations etc. involved in execution and technical support. Such a multi-stakeholder collaboration will ease operationalization of large-scale skill development programs at the local level.

Collaboration is an effective strategy to manage the demand-supply complication
Demand for skilled labour and its supply are based on a set of constantly changing variables such as industrial changes, technological advances, people’s aspirations etc. Balancing demand and supply requires matching the skill of candidates as well as the number of skilled candidates available, to not only the existing industry requirements but also to the changing and dynamic nature of the economy. A key strategy to achieve this is collaboration between different stakeholders involved in preparing candidates for jobs as well as those involved in hiring and retaining them in jobs. One single forum representing all skilling stakeholders will ensure the following:

  • A common platform for employing organizations to directly collaborate with skill training partners
  • Continuous dialogue and knowledge exchange on scaling for the future in terms of skill development and job creation
  • The opportunity to learn directly from employing organizations about industry requirements and accordingly design and diversify skill trainings

Collaboration can help build better aspirations for skilling
Vocational training in its current form has not been aspirational for youth. For most families in India skill development/vocational training is viewed as a backup option or a transitory step. This can be attributed partially to the social stigma attached to blue-collar work. The reluctance to view skill training as a first choice is also because low salaries are offered at entry-level positions even after undergoing skilling. Better collaboration can be adopted to resolve these concerns at three levels:

  • Collaborating with schools and educational institutions to mainstream vocational education by making it a part of formal education
  • Regular dialogue with and sensitization of local communities to address their concern of looking at bottom of the pyramid (BOP) jobs as less important and less dignified
  • Advocacy with the government and campaigning for the strengthening of BOP jobs with better social security measures, decent wages/salaries etc.

Collaboration can facilitate the creation of a globally employable workforce
Collaboration for skilling should not be restricted only to inter-country collaborations. Building relationships with other developed as well as aging economies is a need to create a workforce that is capacitated to meet the labour requirements of a growing village. An example cited on this was a collaboration between Retailers Association’s Skill Council of India (RASCI) and a Japanese company to teach skilling candidates Japanese so they could avail employment opportunities in Tokyo.

Successful collaboration in the skilling sector needs considerable capacity building and more avenues for cross learning and exchange of information. Learning from past experiences, successes and failures should shape the development of new programs. A significant factor that enhances such collaborative efforts is the role of trust and transparency in communication between the diverse entities. Collaboration needs to be curated appropriately since multi-stakeholder, individual and institutional consensus on problems and planning is essential for successful partnerships. The end goal of collaboration should be the long-term growth and sustainability of the skilling sector.

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