From the desk of Editor-in-Chief

Skill Development is central to achieve ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’

When the whole world is suffering from the deadly pandemic, India plans to convert this crisis into an opportunity and strengthen its fight by becoming Atmanirbhar or self-reliant. The call was recently given by the Prime Minister of India during his address to the nation on May 12, 2020. He named this campaign as Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan (Self- Reliant India Movement). Defining the five pillars of Atmanirbhar Bharat – viz Economy, Infrastructure, System, Demography and Demand, he stressed upon the fact that it is time to become vocal for our local products and make them global.
The call for a self-reliant India may have been partly fuelled by the tension between India and its neighbour, China. It was the initial lack of domestic production of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the onset of the pandemic in India that led to a realization of our heavy dependence and imports on other countries.
Wide-ranging concerted endeavours would, however, be required, since self-reliance will not happen by itself. State-funded R&D, including basic research by PSUs and research institutions and universities needs to be scaled-up significantly, well above the dismal 1% of GDP currently.


Upgraded and reoriented PSUs would also be crucial, given their distinctive place in the ecosystem. Private sector delivery-oriented R&D could also be supported and linked to meaningful participation in manufacturing at appropriate levels of the supply chain.
No country has achieved self-reliance without investing in quality education and skill development for the masses. India’s meagre public expenditure on education needs to be substantially ramped up, including skill development.
Skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling would help individuals develop proficiency in skills and technologies that are highly in demand at present, and will remain so in the future as well. It will also aid people in fostering an entrepreneurial mindset, which would help India become more competitive and self-reliant.
In the present edition, The Bridge India E-Magazine brings to you gripping stories from three distinct contributors to the economy – Governments, Corporates and NGOs. The stories are focused on the skill development initiatives by institutional and individual actors from these sectors that contribute to the goal of building a self-sufficient, new India.


Skilling has come to the center stage of policy formation

 In a virtual interaction, The Bridge Advisor, Dr. Manoj K. Dash spoke with Praveen Kumar, IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Government of India. The conversation revolved around how the Ministry is planning to contribute to the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat through its skill development initiatives. Excerpts from the insightful tete e tete:

TBI: In July 2015 PM launched ‘Skill India’ campaign, with the aim to train over 40 crore people in different skills in India by 2022. We have covered five years since then. Kindly share a glimpse of the major achievements. What are the major challenges that need to be addressed and could you elaborate

PK: In the last five years because of PM’s initiative, skilling has come to the center place of policy formation. Earlier skilling was done mostly in ITIs and people were not aware that this is also a specific area of learning. Last five years have witnessed vast expansion of the ecosystem in the long term and short term.


In the long term, the number of ITIs has gone up from 12,000 to 15,000 and the seats have increased from 18 lacs to 24 lacs. Short term training system has seen a major evolution. Almost 8,000 training providers have come in. 37Sector Skill Councils have come up which mediate between the training system and the industry. Model short-term training centers in each district are now in place. Earlier the districts were not so much into partnering in skilling efforts. Now the districts have infrastructure for implementing skilling programmes. Last year we have brought in District Skilling Committee which will look into the skilling needs of the district. Some higher-level institutions have also come up like the Indian Institute of Skills and State Skilling Universities, etc. All these constitute expansion of ecosystem in one part.

In the second part, the industry connect has gone up both in the short term and long term. In the short term, training is driven by industry through 37 Sector Skill Councils. In the long term, the Director General of Training has 40 Sector Committees where industries keep on evaluating the courses offered by ITIs and indicate what changes should be brought in. The third thing is changes initiated in the area of apprenticeship. The Act and rules have been amended and new programmes launched. The apprenticeship number has gone up from 1 lac per annum to 2.5 lac per annum. Fourth, quality has improved over time because I see only one parameter as to who should judge quality. It is the user, i.e. the industry. Placement is a good indicator of quality and it has gone up from 10% to 51 % which is a big jump.

The other thing which has happened is that everyone had started giving random courses such as training courses for plumbers. X and Y offering training courses on plumbers used to have a big gap. In order to standardize, the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) is now in place. This has put common standards across country. Anyone having NSQF qualified course can be reasonably assured that a person having done a course would have certain common competencies all across the country. Anyone trained in Kerala can be hired in UP since we know what are the specific competencies which the trainee has got.

Another new thing is incipient regulatory structure. We have National Center for Vocational Technical Education (NCVT) which is a uniform regulator for the skilling sector. It is in the first year of its existence and forming the guidelines. In next 1 to 2 years its impact will be visible.

In the last five years under the central government ecosystem nearly 5.5 crore people were trained including all central ministries including our ministry. I expect equal number would have been trained by the State Sector. We are far from the 22-crore target but it is a big jump from what used to take place earlier. Twenty–Thirty lacs used to be trained every year in the past. Now we are training almost a crore every year. A lot of lessons have been learnt and a lot of issues are still to be addressed.

TBI: Prime Minister has given a clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat. So, what kind of changes you are foreseeing in the Ministry so that there is synergy between the two – skill development and Atmanirbhar Bharat. Further, Atmanirbhar Bharat by its inherent design means more entrepreneurial ability and more entrepreneurial spirit. How skill development will bring about more entrepreneurial spirit in the economy so that we become Atmanirbhar?

PK: I will answer this question into two parts. One, in Atmanirbhar Bharat we are focusing more on shifting from imports to local production and also producing for the world – vocal for local and local for global. For the first part our endeavour will be to ensure that Atmanirbhar Bharat does not get derailed due lack of skilled personnel. We will ensure that skilled persons are available for any venture which is coming as a result of our endeavour so that we become the manufacturing capital and universal supplier for the world. That’s why we are tying up with other Ministries to provide the skilled persons they require. Whatever skills the industry wants for facilitating production, be it telecom, highways or railways, will be provided.
Second part is about addressing entrepreneurial needs. One should realize that majority of skilled people don’t wish to set up big businesses. They usually wish to set up a small beauty parlor or a small grocery shop. If someone wants to set up plumbing agency to provide services in a particular area, the agency can meet the demand or they can join forces with Urban Clap type of platform for offering services.
To address such aspirations, we are bringing a new scheme through which we will do an orientation for them in the final month of their program and find out who are interested in entrepreneurship. Persons showing keen interest in entrepreneurship will be exposed to an intense two month course which we have named as mini MBA. At the end of it they will develop a proper project report with a mentor attached to them and local funding through the banks will be organized so that they can develop their business around that project report. We expect to create 5 lac entrepreneurs based on this model for spurring local business.

TBI: Since NEP has now come into place is there any attempt from Ministry to link the NEP parameters, goals and standards with the NSQF?

PK: What we have suggested to schools and higher education departments is that from class 9 to 12, one vocational course should be made compulsory. The school may not set up separate infrastructure and need not spend money. We will tie them up with our short-term training providers and ITIs. School children can be brought once a day to the ITIs where they will get vocational skills and go back. Now also the optional vocational training courses in the school are NSQF approved. In higher education what we are suggesting is while a person is doing Non-professional courses like BA, BCOM and BSC, there should be a choice-based on credit system. Some of the credits can be opted for skilling which will allow dual certification. They will get a BA/ BSC degree. By the time they finish their three years in BA/B Sc, they will also get a skilling certificate. If they are not able to use the BA degree for employment, they can use the skill training certificate.

TBI: As you have very rightly said this pandemic has created new opportunities for many sectors and because of that we’re going for new ways of managing our work on-line, through technology. You know in this context Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Robotics, Cyber Security – all these are coming up. How the Ministry is planning to transform curricula to trigger a transition to an ecosystem which fosters new age skills and innovative mindset?

PK: We have already taken steps for moving towards what we call industry 4.0. In 100 ITIs there are eleven IR 4.0 courses being provided now which include things like Internet of Things, Geo Informatics, Drone Pilot, etc. In the short-term, we are providing advanced subjects like cloud computing, data analytics, etc. where a higher level of training is required. A class 10 dropout cannot straightaway do a course in data analytics. It is for people who are already graduates in Mathematics or other people working on such issues. Basic skilling will remain in demand for many years into the future. It wouldn’t go away so soon and based on the requirements wewill keep on expanding to include new curricula. We have tied up with Microsoft, Google, etc to help us offer courses aligned with new-age technology. This is a dynamic process and based on requirements we will keep on expanding.

[Note: PK = Shri Praveen Kumar; TBI = The Bridge]

To access complete video interview please click here.


NGOs strive to reskill & upskill the workforce

By Dr Manoj Dash

The call for Atmanirbhar Bharat pushes the country to believe in a narrative wherein it is imperative for India to make a transition from survival to creative strength. This means we need to focus more on skilled workforce and entrepreneurial muscle to turn India into a leading manufacturing hub of the world. Following which imparting skills to meet the demands of post-pandemic ways of working will be crucial to build a self-reliant operating-model.

Dr Manoj Dash gets a sight into the remarkable stories of some leading NGOs who have been functioning relentlessly towards turning this dream into reality.

Functional Vocational Training and Research Society (FVTRS):

FVTRS is a non-profit organisation that promotes vocational skill training since 1993. It operates across the country through partner organisations. Its focus groups have been illiterate and school dropout youth from the marginalised families. The organisation supports its partner organisations for implementing vocational skill training projects designed to enhance vocational, technical and livelihood skills of youth from vulnerable communities.
Over the years it has developed focused and innovative interventions around skill development that also promote entrepreneurial capacity.


Skill Net: It is an association of skilled workers so that after they acquire skills through interventions directly or indirectly supported by FVTRS, they will create internal resource for investment through regular savings, create locally accessible training mechanisms, enterprise development, enhancement of skills and effectively use applicable government schemes. Rolled out in the year 2015, today skill net has become an integral part of project implementation. The trainees get formed into groups right from the beginning and trained leaders guide them to get integrated into regular activities of the association thereby leading to progressive empowerment.

SCOPE: Skilling Community Owned Promotion and Enhancement (SCOPE) is a community based and community owned approach to skill development also promoted by FVTRS for continuity and sustainability of its interventions. This model is currently getting experimented in collaboration with six partners in different parts of the country. It has evolved with the perspective that skill training is not necessarily a one-time activity but a continuous process. In this approach participation of the community is encouraged in selecting trade, trainees, training, organising training, forming and mentoring collectives of trainees, employment, continuous education and enhancement of skills and livelihoods.

EDP Centre: Anchored by FVTRS, Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) Centre is a team of master trainers who train trainers on entrepreneurship development. It facilitates and ensures regular EDP training for the trainees of vocational skill during and even after skill training in order to encourage as well as enable trainees to go for entrepreneurial initiatives rather than just seeking jobs.

Magic Bus:

Magic Bus works with children and young people, living in poverty. It equips children and young people in the age group of 12 to 18 with the skills and knowledge they need to grow up and move out of poverty. It builds their employability skills and maps job potential based on individual strengths and mobility.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Magic Bus adapted its programme and introduced innovative solutions to engage with youth to ensure life and employability skilling continues. As lockdowns were imposed the livelihood centres closed, engagement was shifted to the virtual mode. A quick survey was conducted among the youth connected to its initiatives and it revealed that 60% of them had access to Smartphones. To address this, an interim curriculum was released, to address the training needs of both, those with and without Smartphones.
New batches were also mobilised with the help of its strong alumni network. It was ensured that the newly enrolled youth had access to a Smartphone. Various virtual platforms were tested to host training programmes and capacity of trainers were strengthened in the use of these platforms to deliver training sessions. The training content was customised to include assignments, learning confirmations, case stories, scenarios and video links so as to be able to suit the needs of the online delivery. Currently all its batches are enrolled on an App and the delivery of the sessions happen virtually.
The organisation also launched a new programme, the Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) to support existing micro-businesses and help struggling/stagnant enterprises to survive/grow and become job creators in the near future. Sixty aspiring entrepreneurs graduated from the programme and the first cohort received seed money to start their businesses.
Building further on its success, the organisation plans to create 1,000 micro-entrepreneurs in the next three years. This includes identification of aspiring entrepreneurs from the marginalised sections of peri-urban & rural areas, running ideation boot camps, training them on necessary life skills as well as technical entrepreneurship training, business plan creation, seed money support, business set up support, further support to access to capital and market linkages as well as mentoring and handholding support.
Through its digitally run employment exchange programme, the organisation connects thousands of job seekers – both fresh as well as those who lost jobs during the pandemic – with confirmed job opportunities available locally with the organised sector including the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). MSMEs with skilled manpower will receive focused support as a lot of them got impacted due to the reverse migration of workers.

Rajputana Society of Natural History (RSNH):

Imparting qualitative value-based skill learning for everyone has been one of the primary focus of RSNH. It has established Rajputana Rural Enviropreneurship Development Centre (RREDC) in Bharatpur of Rajasthan for skill development, capacity building and sustainability of the grassroot level workers. The centre offers basic and fundamental courses such as Stitching, Sewing, etc. for women’s empowerment and personality development, spoken English, computer literacy, ornithology and leadership in conservation courses for building capacity in trainees to drive them into entrepreneurial ventures that value preservation and conservation of environment and nature apart from taking care of their livelihoods needs.
The organisation has been implementing a programme since 2014 that seeks economic empowerment of rural women and conservation of traditional art and nature through which one thousand women and their families have been empowered in Sewar and Uchhain Blocks of Bharatpur through entrepreneurial ventures at the village level. This has helped create a consortium of the participant rural women to push women in the local nomadic communities to pursue entrepreneurship and have greater control over their lives while contributing towards improving the local economy.


 Corporates turn pandemic into an opportunity to unlock ‘Skill India’

By Karan Bhardwaj

India Inc. is rolling out big-scale initiatives to upskill Indian youth and prepare them to be potential digital workforce of the future, writes Karan Bhardwaj
Amid rows of challenges hitting the Indian economy post Covid-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for an Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India). Some view it as a renewed form of ‘Make in India’. But industry experts say the success of a self-reliant nation depends on how skilled its workforce is to capture new employment opportunities and generate sustainable livelihood. As per estimates, of the 450 million labour force, only 10.5 million qualify for the technical jobs. A startling 225 million are not even literate or acquire only primary education; 50 million reached secondary levels. Only 7.9 million completed some form of vocational training. Statistics reveal 83 per cent of graduates do not possess essential technical and managerial skills to tap the new-age industries.
The pandemic has caused additional havoc in the markets by triggering massive layoffs and steep rise in unemployment. In such a scenario, it has become indispensable to fill in skill-gaps if India wishes to turn around the situation and transform into a competent nation, a knowledge society and innovation-led economy.
Realising the potential of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’, India Inc. is putting its mighty force behind government initiatives such as ‘Digital India’ and ‘Skill India’ by channelizing their resources and infrastructure. The goal is to enable millions of youngsters acquire new skill sets and chances of employability.


Employing The Unemployed

Take GMR Varalakshmi Foundation (GMRVF), the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of the GMR Group. The Foundation has established 14 training centres in 18 locations across India, and has trained more than 70,000 youth till date. Eight per cent of them have been settled in wage or are self-employed.
GMRVF offers short term skill training (generally 3 months) to the unemployed youth in the sectors of – Electronics & Hardware, Construction & Earth Moving, Automotive, IT & ITeS, Retails, Hospitality & Apparel Made ups and Home Furnishings etc. It works on a transformational cycle with focus on hands on practical coupled with doses on soft skills and industry exposure.
Due to the Coronavirus crisis, they have initiated the online classes for remote learning and are also managing student engagement programmes online. It has covered more than 1,500 youth since April 2020.
“A system was established for sharing of batch wise weekly lesson plan, training execution as per time table, sharing of relevant documents, study materials, YouTube links and videos. After every session the trainees are asked for clarification of doubts related with the topic. System of weekly tests and monthly assessments created through Google forms and results with google spreadsheets which has helped in easy computation, analysis and sharing,” said by Dr. Avanish Kumar, Director, GMR Varalakshmi Foundation.

Pushing the Digital Skills

Promoting digital skills further, the CSR arm of Vodafone India, in collaboration with CGI and NASSCOM Foundation, has launched a new initiative, The free-to-use learning platform portal aims to increase digital literacy and self-reliance among marginalized communities. There would be over 40 courses in both Hindi and English, designed for all age groups. The content will also soon be available in regional languages such as Kannada, Oriya and Marathi. The courses are based on basic, intermediate and advanced knowledge on digital skills. The larger aim behind this platform is to transform ‘digital novices’ into the beneficiaries of the tech revolution and eventually help communities gain entrepreneurial skills.
At the launch of the initiative, P. Balaji, Chief Regulatory and Corporate Affairs Officer, Vodafone Idea, said, “Vodafone Idea is committed to developing communities where we operate. We have transformative initiatives in the domains of agriculture, education, health, women empowerment which are positively impacting millions of Indians every year. As part of our commitment to increase digital literacy and help communities learn digital skills, I am delighted to announce the launch of Digisakshar – which I am sure will contribute to a resilient and skilled India.”
Courses offered at Digisakshar are related to the basics of computer operations, handling mobile phones, using the internet securely, digital payments, finding jobs and livelihood opportunities, accessing common and government websites and many more.
The CGI, an IT and business consulting services firm, will be developing self-learning content in multiple languages to augment the digital skills curriculum. NASSCOM Foundation CEO Ashok Pamidi said, “With digital literacy through physical centres taking a huge hit due to the current crisis, Digisakshar hopes to provide a safe online learning environment for digital novices to learn new skills.”
It is noteworthy that the portal has been designed keeping in mind the learning needs of different users including the visually impaired. The course structures involve both texts and videos for the ease of learning.

Tapping Rural Potential

As the pandemic forced the big companies to lock down institutions and training centres, Johnson Controls – Hitachi Air Conditioning India has decided to ‘unlock skills’ of rural youth on virtual platforms. Their CSR wing has collaborated with Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) to make skill development in Air Conditioners and Refrigeration ‘uninterrupted and boundary-less’. The company has designed a special curriculum to train rural youth across the country by their world-class trainers at development centres, five in Andhra Pradesh and one in Gujarat.
Talking about this unique CSR initiative, Gurmeet Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, JC-HAC India, has been quoted as saying, “Skill development in the HVAC industry holds the key to reinforce employment opportunities and self-reliance mission in the times of COVID-19 and Swadeshi movement. In the ongoing scenario there is a drastic change in nature of work and employment profiles in HVAC manufacturing and services further boosting the demand for new style of skill development. With ‘everything virtual’ in the mandatory social distancing world, we are confident that our boundary less initiative of skill building in AC and refrigeration segment will transform country’s rural youth into world-class technicians.”
Since India is being looked as an alternative to China as the next manufacturing hub, these significant initiatives by the Indian corporate would yield impressive results in times to come. However, there’s also a need to find ways to increase not only employability but also entrepreneurship skills to help sustain people in the long run. A strategic partnership between government institutions and private companies in imparting new-age skills would help India become the next powerhouse of talent.


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