Making an announcement of the STAR Scheme or the National Skill Certification and Monetary Reward Scheme (launched by the previous UPA government in 2013-14) former finance minister P Chidambaram had said in Parliament that it was aimed at “skilling trained youth to give an enormous boost to employability and productivity.” Sadly, all that it seems to have done is create lakhs of skilled unemployed workers and pushed the corrupt to make money from it.
A review of the STAR Scheme is important as the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) is about to be rolled out. This new Rs. 1,500 crore scheme to skill 24 lakh youth definitely needs to be better managed with specified outcomes if it has to be successful.
Allegations of corruption in the running of the STAR scheme revealed a number of things. From assessors certifying skilled candidates for a bribe to training institutes helping themselves to the “monetary reward” promised to candidates being skilled, many people seemed to have made hay while the government dreamt of skilling people to push up employment rates.
Employees in some training institutes revealed to HT Education on conditions of anonymity that their officials bribed assessors Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 each for certifying candidates as successful in the skills training programme.
Sources who did not want to be identified also said that the scheme was not well publicised, because of which undeserving candidates were selected for skilling and those targeted left out. “The scheme was meant to train people for entry-level jobs, but many of those selected included working professionals, college students and housewives, not needy people desperately needing to be skilled. There was no process in place to select those actually in need of training,” reveals an assessor associated with the scheme.
Though the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) overseeing the scheme has said that complaints of such nature total just 0.035% cases involving more than 14 lakh candidates, assessment agencies empanelled with NSDC say that in many cases misappropriation of funds have taken place with the consent of all the concerned parties, candidates, institutes and the assessment agencies.
“A big corporate house got all its employees enrolled and trained under the scheme. Its employees got Rs. 10,000 as reward money. The scheme was not meant for those who could afford training, but for people who needed skilling and employment,” says an employee in NSDC’s assessment agency on conditions of anonymity.
Dismissing the allegations Dilip Chenoy, MD and CEO, NSDC, says, “NSDC follows a very stringent process for implementation of the scheme and has well-defined monitoring protocols that track the progress of the scheme on a daily basis.”
Many HR heads and skilling experts who were associated with the scheme have their own take on the “success” of the whole scheme. Basab Banerjee, former head, quality assurance and standards, NSDC, says “Since the scheme was implemented on the outcome-based system and when small issues of violations started coming up, these aberrations got reported more than the true value of the scheme.”
Employment is also a critical issue. Some experts say that even if the mandate of the scheme was to only train youths, the ultimate purpose of any training scheme was to get trained candidates employed. The industry should have, therefore, come forward to take ownership of the whole scheme because standards for skilling were set by certain industries and training was imparted as per those standards.
“This scheme might have been planned on the lines of the midday meal scheme, where incentives drive attendance and keep children in school and everything works well, pushing up school attendance. I don’t know how this approach of offering rewards of Rs. 10,000 could have worked for adults, who need jobs instead of financial incentives to encourage them to get skilled.
A brighter future and a better job should be the motivator for adults and not the freebies,” says Jappreet Sethi, CEO of startup consulting firm, Idea Katalyst. Sethi is also an ex-member of retail sector skill council.
Sethi also questions why taxpayer money should go to train private sector employees. “Maybe NSDC needs to publish data on the number of corporates that have used this scheme to train their existing employees at taxpayer cost. ”
Interestingly, when one of the HT Education correspondents, posing as the owner of an institute asked the head of another training institute associated with the STAR Scheme how maximum gains could be made from the upcoming PMKVY, he was told: “In this scheme, we will get Rs. 8,000 to train one candidate but we may have to ensure him a job also. So you have to get a letter from some company which will ensure jobs to the successful candidates. I can get many such letters and give it to you but these shops will give jobs to people only when we get our money under the scheme. Out of Rs. 8,000, we will have to share the profits with the shop owner issuing us the letter. After that they will throw out the candidate.”
The way ahead
# There must be a filtration process at the entry level
# Industry must give preference to the certified people while hiring
# Candidates must be counselled on the job roles
# The auditing must be done by bodies like CAG
# Every assessment must be video recorded
# Transfer of ‘reward’ money should be done within 30 days
# NSDC should monitor placements
STAR scheme launched in August 16, 2013
Allocation of funds to the scheme in budget FY 2013-14 Rs. 1000 crore
Candidates enrolled 14 lakh
Candidates cleared the assessment 9.13 lakh
Placements: No official data available