This could be the icing on the campaigns. For Skill India is the one that, if successful, will provide the tools (skills, if you will) for the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s other signature programmes: Digital India, Smart City, Make in India, Namami Gange and Swachh Bharat. The numbers tell the story, though they could be daunting. According to a magazine column by Dilip Chenoy, CEO of the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), 365 million people will join the workforce over the next 15 years. About a million will be looking for employment every month -- that is about half of Australia every year. Will all of them find employment? Unlikely, if you look at the education system. The only solution is in giving them enough skills to become employable. Currently, a mere 2% of the Indian workers are skilled. In-service training is received by only 15% of workers in the manufacturing sector, leaving a significantly large bulk of the labour force -- about 93% -- to work in the unorganised sectors, without any formal training, wrote Chenoy.
CK Prahalad, the management thinker, saw the challenge early. Nearly a decade ago he talked about the need to skill 500 million people by 2022, the year independent India turns 75. Prahalad already made Mumbai’s dabbawalas -- and himself -- famous, and turned the bottom of the pyramid into a fashionable marketing concept. So, his call for skilling received due attention. The UPA government took note and started the Honhaar Bharat programme. It also set up the NSDC.
The Confederation of Indian Industry, a corporate lobby, started an India@75 programme. The NDA government went a step further and created a ministry for skill development. After being clubbed with the ministry of youth affairs and sports, it was spun off later to become a separate portfolio and was given to Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Still, programmes, bodies and ministries raise awareness and create the right environment, but do not always solve the problem. The problem, unfortunately, seems to be as daunting as when Prahalad first spoke about it. In January this year, Rudy said it was “almost impossible to achieve” the 2022 target. Therefore, the launch of the Skill India Mission by the prime minister, with a target to skill 402 million by 2022, renews hope. It will still be difficult to quibble if 402 million were to get skilled in the next seven years. The least likely to complain are the industry sectors. According to a study by the NSDC, for 22 high-growth sectors, there will be a need for 347 million trained workers by 2022 to sustain growth.