Employable Skills—need of the hour! Vandana Bhatnagar, Chief Program Officer at National Skill Development Corporation.

Employable Skills—need of the hour! Vandana Bhatnagar, Chief Program Officer at National Skill Development Corporation.

Ramdas Shenoyy understanding the needs of a skillful India from Ms. Bhatnagar, NSDC

How relevant is skill development in today’s dynamic world?

Skill development is essential for improving employability, productivity and enabling sustainable enterprise development, and inclusive growth.  Structural, demographic and technological shifts are transforming the Indian economy and the nature of work, making it critical to empower the new labor force entrants with latest technological skills. Approximately 70 million additional individuals of working age (15-59 years) are expected to enter the country’s labor force by 2023. Using the same estimation model, the total workforce will then include approximately 404.15 million people. The continuously evolving industry requirements and burgeoning workforce would require India to skill its youth at rapid pace and large scale.

In addition, India has a unique window of opportunity for another 20-25 years called the “demographic dividend” with more than 50% population below 25 years of age and over 60% of the population in the working-age group. However, to reap dividends out of this demographic advantage, India would need to skill its people with the requisite job skills or entrepreneurial skills.

What is the role of National Skill Development Corporation as an organization?

National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) was set up as a public-private partnership (PPP) in 2009 to stimulate private sector participation in the Indian skill development sector. Since inception, NSDC through its partner network, has trained more than 2.4 Crore people under various government-funded and market led programs. As of December 31, 2019, NSDC has over 500 training partners with a network of about 8,000 training centres. In addition, over 16,000 training centres (TCs) have been accredited through its Accreditation and Affiliation portal, which is now being used by more than 20 Government of India schemes for quality benchmarking of TCs working with them.

NSDC has catalyzed the creation of 37 Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) to establish connect with the industry and design training curriculum as per industry requirements. These SSCs have over 600 representatives from Industry Associations, Government and Academia, and have enabled creation of more than 2,400 Qualification Packs for trainings. To leverage emerge technologies for digital skilling, NSDC has launched the eSkill India portal – an aggregator portal that facilitates online learning and use of digital content in training delivery, in over 300 courses across 10+ sectors and 5 languages.

Efforts have also been made to raise the standard of training infrastructure and quality of training delivery. Towards this, 750 Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKKs) have been established across India. These PMKKs are state-of-the-art training centres that demonstrate aspirational value for competency-based skill development training. Furthermore, social and print media, rozgar melas, skill exhibitions, etc. have been leveraged as ways to encourage more youths towards skill development.

How can one map one’s interest and aptitude with skills that can be built?

Individual interests and aptitude could be mapped with skills using a psychometric test, which helps in identification of skills, knowledge and personality. It enables student to make more informed choices about their future study course. Career counsellors use psychometric assessments to understand the personality and interests of the candidate and assess their skill set, which could be further built on to drive candidates towards the suitable career path.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also being leveraged to map students’ skills with interests. For instance, KnackApp is a company that utilizes AI for assessing the strengths of candidates and recommends right careers for them. Pymetrics, a tech start-up, uses AI and behavioral science to enable students realize their potential and skills.

Most of the people get into the rat race of acquiring a degree, which doesn’t necessarily yield in employment—your views?

According to CMIE, while unemployment rate for youngsters between 20 and 24 years of age is at about 37% in September-December 2019, the corresponding figure is significantly higher at 63.4%, for graduated youth of the same age. While many would argue that the industry has not been able to create decent jobs for its graduates, the fact remains that large percentage of Indian graduates lack necessary skills for suitable employment. According to a recent study conducted by Wheebox, People Strong and CII, only 47% of the fresh pass-out graduates are employable.

Majority of youth consider higher education as the only means to enter the formal wage employment. However, with limited number of seats available in tier-1 colleges (such as IITs and NITs), many of them end-up enrolling into tier-2 or tier-3 colleges, which have almost tripled in the last decade and have significantly outnumbered tier-1 colleges. Hence, these tier-2 and tier-3 colleges contribute to bulk of graduates flocking the job market. These are the graduates whose quality standards come into question and are often found unemployable.

What are the challenges to address the skill needs of the industry?

With increasing use of advanced technologies impacting functions across the value chain, the demand for manpower with technology skills is continuously rising. According to Wheebox’s India Skills 2020 Survey Report, corporates are likely to increasingly use data science and social media marketing in the next five years to improve customer experience and drive operational efficiencies. In addition, many industries are automating their basic operations such as use of chatbots in banks, robots in manufacturing, and AI in pharma and healthcare. In a survey conducted by World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2018, 79% of surveyed companies intend to retrain their existing employees, and 78% companies are planning to hire new staff with skills relevant to new technologies. The rapidly evolving industry need for skilled manpower poses the challenge of continuously adapting skilling programs as per the industry requirements.

NSDC is also playing a significant role in ensuring that the workforce is future ready and is skilled on advanced technologies. Emerging technologies (including Cyber Security, AI, Blockchain, Big Data, etc.) which are influencing the future of work in India have been identified and job roles are being curated around these technologies for enabling trainings. In addition, knowledge partnerships has been established to develop courses in data analytics, digital media, urban solutions, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, etc. Furthermore, NSDC has collaborated with Renault-Nissan and Singapore Polytechnic for designing a one-year program with Singapore Polytechnic certification for advanced and green manufacturing techniques in the automotive sector.

What will be your advice to the youth with regards to skill development?

Skill development is a powerful tool for the youth to empower themselves and improve their social acceptance. Technical and vocational education and training can give young people, especially women, the skills to compete for better paying jobs. In this continuously changing economic environment it is essential that the youth should continue to invest in themselves and learn new skills to improve their proficiency and stay future-ready.  

Which are the upcoming professions or the professions of the future in the digital world?

Future of professions would be largely determined by the adoption of technologies such as IoT, Virtual Reality (VR), AI, Machine Learning, Big Data, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). IoT is witnessing rising implementations in smart cities, smart buildings, connected homes, smart supply chains, and the manufacturing industry. Key job roles emerging out of increasing applications of IoT include data engineers, data scientists, machine learning scientists, and BI solutions architect, among others. Similarly, AI and Robotics are driving automation and creating new job roles such as AI research scientists, language processing specialists, RPA developers, and man-machine teaming managers. We would see more such new job roles emerging as technology continues to get more advanced and accessible.

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