Parable Of Skill Development Programmes: Can They Fulfill The Yawning Gap?

The study relies essentially on the collection of quantitative and qualitative data and information to capture the perceptions of stakeholders with significant influence on the skill development eco-system.


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The pace of India’s population growth (15 million per year) is reportedly the world’s largest and India is poised to topple China by 2024. As India’s population soars, the nation continues to grapple with creating adequate befitting skilled jobs for its growing working-age population. The India Skill Report 2018 underscores that a meagre 47% of the individuals coming out of educational institutions are employable. With 12 million individuals that are expected to join the workforce every year in India and with the workforce’s industry readiness being a matter of serious concern in the country, a yawning gap continues to exist between people demanding work and the gainful employment opportunities that are on offer. It is quite obvious that the government cannot solve this problem alone. Hence, collaborative efforts in the form of public-private partnerships (PPPs) have a significant role to play to fill this yawning gap by imparting short-term vocational training that prepares young unemployed people for jobs that do not necessarily require a college degree but specific skills that are tailored to the needs of the industry. With such PPPs already functioning under the aegis of Skill India Mission, it is indeed worthwhile to explore if any meaningful employment opportunities could be created through such partnerships. 

In view of this, an exploratory survey-based study has been carried out on short-term vocational training programme conducted by IL&FS Skill Development Corporation’s (ISDC) as a case in point and specifically examining the skill schools in Odisha. The choice is driven by the fact that over the last ten years short-term training (in different vocations) and placement (both within and outside the state) has been provided to around forty-five thousand youths, mostly from rural, semi-urban and vulnerable sections of the population in Orissa. The study relies essentially on the collection of quantitative and qualitative data and information to capture the perceptions of stakeholders with significant influence on the skill development eco-system. The sampling process involved a survey of 17 skills schools. Additionally, the opinion of nearly 1000 respondents has been recorded and analyzed. Three of the crucial attributes that have been explored are inclusivity of the programme; retention of jobs and improvement in the quality of life pointers.

Inclusivity in participation

Albeit the programmes still continue to have an imbalance in gender at the enrolment stage, they have been largely inclusive when it comes to enrolment across various social classes. Figures below shows the distribution of enrolment in the programme across gender and social category.

Retention in jobs

The dropouts from mobilization to enrolment stage have been observed to be quite low (around 1 percent) and are largely attributable to lack or loss of interest in the training programme. The overall retention rate of the trained candidates in a job has been observed to be 71 percent. 

The retention rate is higher among the females than males. The better retention of female candidates could be attributed to their superior coping ability at the workplace. This has also been corroborated by the interaction of the survey team with the female candidates at the worksite hostels where they reside and through feedback from the HR personnel at the industry site. 

Across the social groups, ST and OBC have been observed to have better retention rate than the candidates belonging to general category. There has also been reaffirmed through the interaction of survey team with the candidates belonging especially to tribal communities and other backward classes at the worksite. 

The overall high retention rate could be attributed to the soft skills training additionally imparted by the skill schools under ISDC along with the vocational training. Most of the placed participants have expressed their comfort in expressing concerns at the workplace due to this training. Interactions with the HR personnel in the industry further reveals that on the job performance of the placed candidates largely depends on their adaptability to the work environment. Although some of the employers do additionally offer on the job training they underscored that imparting of soft skills by training schools under ISDC does have a significant influence on the adaptability at the workplace. 

Improvements in Select Quality of Life Pointers

All most all the surveyed (placed) candidates at the workplace have been observed to take out time for leisure and enjoyment by attending local festivals and employee engagement programs like a picnic, cultural shows organized at the workplace. These collective enjoyments are largely missing in their homes town or villages and thus perceived to add value to their quality of living. Furthermore, as a result of working and living collectively in a progressive and urban environment, most of the women belonging to the remotest part of the developed improved awareness on hygiene and reproductive health. These include awareness on using sanitary napkins, improved consciousness on the dangers of underage marriage and childbirth. Most of the candidates have also developed the habit of savings and regularly send money back home to meet either the unmet household needs or expenses or to repay unpaid loans. 

In the light of the insights gathered on the three crucial attributes, it would not be wrong to infer that the short-term skill development programme like that of ISDC does hold promises to be inclusive, can improve the low retention rate at the workplace and can significantly influence the quality of life pointers if designed with the right intent. Furthermore, it can be easily culled out from the survey that soft skills and personality development of candidates sometimes turn out to be more effective and complement the conventional vocational skills that the candidates acquire in a skill school and therefore deserves a due focus. This should be combined with continued engagement with the industry personnel who are directly or indirectly involved in choosing these candidates from skill schools to ensure that such training programmes are successful in generating meaningful employment opportunities and successfully fulfill the yawning gap that exists between skills demanded and those on offer.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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