Why countries like Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden and Japan are focused on making more Indians employable
Last week, India and Japan signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to send 3 lakh Indian workers for on-job training to Japan. Not too far away, two World Bank-backed schemes of Rs 6,655 crore for skill development got the government nod.
Around the same time in a delegation led by minister Suresh Prabhu, while soliciting investments, also made a pitch to Swedish honchos to partner in Sweden skilling Indian workers. And last month, backed by the government, LinkedIn signed a pact with IL&FS Skills Development Corporation to roll out the first-ever platform to upskill blue-collar Indian workers and help them network and find jobs. Earlier, National Skill Development Council (NSDC) had joined hands with Google to train Indian app developers. Then, Asian Development Bank is helping roll out skill programmes from Himachal Pradesh to Odisha.
Ties are being forged with academic institutions like Australia’s Deakin University and Harvard Business School, US, to monitor and aid NSDC’s skill development programmes. Talks are on with community colleges from the US and Canada to beef up India’s vocational training infrastructure. India is staring at a job crisis.In a country with over 470 million workers, how to create jobs and make Indians employable is the government’s biggest worry. Efforts within the country are on to find some answers.
Equally, an overseas push too is intensifying. PM Narendra Modi’s tenure has been marked by warm diplomatic ties. This warmth has traditionally given a boost to bilateral trade, investment and defence ties. Skilling Indian workers and helping them find jobs just got added to that list.
MoUs and partnerships with countries and companies, universities and trade delegations, have surged. Collaborations with MNCs and their respective industry bodies (say, Business Sweden) are in the works. Avenues to open up global job markets for Indian workers are being explored; example: geriatric caregivers for Japan’s ageing population.
Sweden wants 50,000 fresh women IT graduates from India. Help is coming India’s way from multilateral and bilateral bodies like the World Bank. Japan International Cooperation Agency ( JICA) and the ADB. NRIs too are chipping in, with some wanting to set up skills universities. “Jobs and skilling workers is a tough problem to solve. It cannot be done overnight. But we will do everything we can to solve it,” says Manish Kumar, MD of NSDC.
There are multiple reasons for countries, companies and multilateral bodies becoming willing partners in Kumar’s endeavours. “Today, one in every five young persons in the world is an Indian. Our role as a multilateral agency is to present India as the human resource capital,” says Shabnam Sinha, lead education specialist, World Bank. Adds Kenichi Yokoyama, country director, ADB: “India is our largest borrower, and also among the best performing.
Now we are focusing our attention on low-income states… skill development and capacity-building will be critical.” Japan has multiple reasons for its multi-level support to India’s skill development push. An ageing population, a shrinking home market and surging Japanese investments in India are nudging a culturally insular Japan to support India. “India has supported us in difficult times. Now it is our time to help,” says Takema Sakamoto, head of JICA India.
India could do with a helping hand. At present, a disparate set of factors — slowing growth, elusive investment, demonetisation and GST along with automation (like banking), global headwinds (in IT services) and structural shifts (in telecom and even agriculture) — has led to rising unemployment in a populous country that adds close to a million new workers every month.
High inflation or high unemployment or both can often decide electoral fortunes. The government is in its fourth year and the 2019 general elections are on the horizon. On the one hand, desperate efforts are on to revive investment and create jobs. On the other, the government is trying hard to equip millions of unskilled and uneducated workers for a tech-led world.
It is a tough problem to solve. At 287 million, India currently has the world’s largest illiterate adult population, says UNESCO. Over 45% of India’s workers are employed in low productivity agriculture. Worryingly, 31% of India’s youth (15-29 years) are NEETs or not in employment, education or training, as per an OECD survey. Dated and poor quality education has created a serious employability issue. Over 80% of engineers are unemployable, according to various studies. Compounding this is India’s growing demographic bulge. By 2027, India will have the world’s largest workforce (between 15 and 64 years) crossing a billion and outpacing China.
It was for this reason that the Congress-led UPA government set up NSDC in 2010. In 2015, the BJP-led NDA government went a step further, targeting to train 400 million workers by 2022 under PMKVY (the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana). It has failed miserably. Of the 30.67 lakh candidates trained under the programme (as of July 2017), just 2.9 lakh got jobs. Many issues have riddled the initiative. Multiple authorities, an ill-equipped NSDC, a poor job-creation climate, sub-par training institutes, data fudging and misaligned incentives are just a few. “I see it not as a failure but as a part of the learning curve. Other nations have taken decades to reach where we are today in such a short time,” says Narayanan Ramaswamy, partner, KPMG India. Since last year, as part of a course correction, a raft of measures, including a top deck reshuffle, has been rolled out.
It is in this context that new global partnerships must be viewed. “Combining scale with speed and being flexible as a government body — that’s the toughest part. How do you forge partnerships within those boundaries to deliver?” is what keeps NSDC’s Kumar awake at night. How to ensure that the electorate keeps the faith will also be giving the government some sleepless nights.
World Bank: Training of Thought
The mission: A $250 million Skill India Mission Operation (SIMO) was approved early this year for Skill India programme
The Journey: The World Bank is allocating $250 million to help the Indian government in its Skill India programme. SIMO will focus on four result areas — institutional strengthening to deliver high-quality training programme; improving workers’ quality and market relevance; enhancing access for women and disadvantaged groups and expanding skill training through PPP. SIMO is creating a Skills Fund with $38 million, or 50% of the fund, the other half coming from CSR money; the fund will be operated by NSDC. SIMO will tap into global experience to bring in financial incentives to deliver high-quality training packages at scale. To bring in some competitive spirit, states’ performance will be graded based on their scores. Good ones will be incentivised through state incentive grants.The World Bank is allocating $250 million to help the Indian government in its Skill India programme. SIMO will focus on four result areas — institutional strengthening to deliver high-quality training programme; improving workers’ quality and market relevance; enhancing access for women and disadvantaged groups and expanding skill training through PPP. SIMO is creating a Skills Fund with $38 million, or 50% of the fund, the other half coming from CSR money; the fund will be operated by NSDC. SIMO will tap into global experience to bring in financial incentives to deliver high-quality training packages at scale. To bring in some competitive spirit, states’ performance will be graded based on their scores. Good ones will be incentivised through state incentive grants.
In pic: Supported by World Bank, young workers train at IL&FS Institute of Skill at Okhla, Delhi
ADB: Into the Skilling Fields
The mission: With $10 billion funds over the next five years, ADB is focusing on skills, besides infrastructure-building, to boost India’s growth
The journey: ADB’s plans stand on two important strands — focus on poorer states like UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, and a special emphasis on employability and capacity building.
It aims to create well-paying jobs in India and upskill workers through skill development programmes. In Himachal Pradesh, it is lending $80 million (Rs 524 crore) for the $100 million programme for modernisation of the state’s technical and vocational education and training institutes that will impact 65,000 youth by 2022.
A similar tourism-focused programme is being rolled out in Uttarakhand. Another Rs 628 crore loan to develop tourism infrastructure in Himachal includes training local residents in tourism-related skills like adventure training and tourist guide activities.
A $102 million (Rs 568 crore) loan is in the works for the Odisha government’s $162 million project to train 2 lakh youngsters in the state by 2022. In Madhya Pradesh, the state government has launched a Rs 1,600 crore programme to beef up skill development infrastructure there, helping train 7.5 lakh youth. ADB will provide a Rs 1,005 crore loan for the project. ADB is also funding a skilling project in Meghalaya.
In pic: ADB has rolled out skill development and livelihood programmes in Meghalaya
The mission: ITE Education Services started in 2012 with a World Class Skill Centre (WCSC) in Delhi. Has recently expanded to Assam and Jaipur
The journey: Led by ITE Education Services of Singapore, its Delhi centre runs two courses for retail and hospitality sectors. In 2015, it set up a training centre in Udaipur that offers six courses in tourism and hospitality. Eventually, the one-year programme envisages training 480 students annually. In 2016, it set up a northeast centre in Guwahati and is still vetting demand to zero in on courses to be run there. ITE Education will be the advisor in creating the programme, p ..
In pic: Supported by Singapore’s ITEES, the Delhi centre WCSC grooms young Indians for hospitality and retail sectors
Japan’s Magic Bullet
The mission: Amid warm political ties, Japan is pouring money (over Rs 1.5 lakh crore of soft loan since 2007) to build India’s infrastructure. Training and upskilling of Indian workers is a major component
The journey: Earlier this week, India and Japan signed a memorandum of cooperation for a technical intern training programme under which three lakh technical interns will be sent to Japan for on-the-job training for three-to-five years. The two nations had earlier, under the manufacturing skill transfer promotion programme, agreed to set up Japan-India Institutes for Manufacturing (JIM) and Japanese Endowed Courses (JEC) in Indian engineering colleges. The programme will train workers in Japanese style of manufacturing. The first four JIMs have been set up by Suzuki, Toyota, Daikin and Yamaha.
For its Rs 1.1 lakh crore bullet train project, Japan is setting up a Rs 600 crore high-speed rail training centre in Gujarat. Equipped with simulators and training equipment, over 4,000 rail engineers are expected to be trained by 2020, with 300 of the first batch to be trained in Japan. Talks are underway for a skill development programme to train Indians on geriatric care and sensitise them to Japanese culture, which would help them get absorbed in Japan.
The Swiss Touch
The mission: SkillSonics started in 2011 in Bengaluru. National Skill Development Corporation has a small stake in it; SkillSonics has a subsidiary in Zurich that helps coordinate between India and Switzerland
The journey: Has adapted Swiss vocational training in India, playing the role of a knowledge partner to Swiss companies and institutes here. Has developed courseware (three months to three years) based on Swiss standards for engineering technicians in sectors like automobiles, aerospace and defence, and across verticals like production, maintenance and service. Partners companies for training and rolling out programmes that upskill shopfloor workers for high-tech manufacturing.
Since 2013, it has conducted training programmes at over 28 locations for companies like ABB, training over 5,000 workers. Takes in 200 students for its two-year programme.
In pic: Sagaya Mary, 22, trains as a fitter at a Buhler India training centre in Bengaluru, supported by SkillSonics