CHENNAI: Despite soaring unemployment woes, how many students are aware of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Sector Skill Councils under it? The NSDC, a not-for-profit company, set up by the Ministry of Finance in the UPA regime was to design industry relevant curricula and training in jobs according to the needs of the industry, among other things.
“For this very purpose, we started out with the ambitious initiative of skilling 500 million people by 2022,” said MM Pallam Raju, Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister for HRD, at the ThinkEdu Conclave.
The sectors identified include Handicrafts and Carpets, Tourism and Hospitality, Textile and Handloom, Automotive skills sector, security sector, Media and Entertainment, IT-ITeS, Healthcare, Rubber, Gems and Jewellery, Leather, Electronics, Food Industry, Telecom Sector, Agriculture, Apparel and Home Furnishings, Beauty and Wellness, Logistics, Plumbing, Construction, Life Sciences, Indian Iron and Steel, Aerospace and Aviation, and Mining and Power among many others. Students, formally educated or not, can approach these sector skills to get trained and certified.
Raju added that there were 31 Sector Skill Councils affiliated with the NSDC of which 24 were active in terms of dispensing training and identifying industry partners. Sector Skill Councils are autonomous bodies that are initially funded by the government. They partner with leading industry bodies to impart training in different skill sectors.
“While the Central government and the States had the responsibility of skilling 150 million, the onus of skilling 350 million rested with the private sector and the NSDC. They have engaged with 24,000 industry partners and under the National Occupation Standards (NOS) the level of skill acquired is classified into 10 levels,” Raju said. The NOS sets standards for each job role identified by the sector skill councils and these levels are defined in terms of learning outcomes that an individual acquires through formal or informal learning.
Author-analyst Shankkar Aiyar who was chairing the session questioned Raju on what the NSDC was doing to ensure that traditional skills handed down from generation to generation were certified as well, to which Raju replied, “Under the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF), let’s say a student is good at art and craft, based on the level of competence, he can be certified.”
The NSQF, he said, has been introduced in several schools across seven states in India and have provided a link between vocational and formal education. Raju, however, said awareness on NSQF would have to be spread and that more schools and colleges should collaborate on it.
Also on the panel, adding perspective to the issue was Dr L Narendranath, Director, Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, who asserted that majority of educators focused on technical, managerial and entrepreneurial skills but not on survival skills. “Our education is qualification-oriented, not skill-oriented,” he said, adding that the needs of the society are constantly changing and hence the curriculum should also be dynamic.
Stressing on practical exposure to improve education in the field, he said, “In Germany, I’m told, only when a student spends a particular period in the automobile engineering industry, he is allowed to pursue a course in the same. India should have a similar system,” he said.
He also raised the pertinent question about jobs: “Does education give a minimum guarantee for the time and money that people invest in education?”
“Training a large number of individuals to become electricians, civil engineers and plumbers is not going to guarantee employment. Previously the IT sector generated massive employment opportunities, which is not the case now,” he pointed out.
Echoing the sentiment of the words of Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express, in the inaugural address that a school should be valued on the college-readiness of its students and a college on the job readiness of its students, Raju lamented that India had a large number of engineering graduates but their employablility was dismal.
On a closing note, Aiyar suggested a system where students who drop out of school be certified based on their skill and be allowed to resume formal education whenever desired, which is what the NSQF aims to do but has a long way to go before covering all schools in the country.