Skill development remained quite marginalised in the past and India is still adrift of the national goal of tracking 25% of the secondary students under the vocational stream. The present enrolment is only about 5%.
The NDA has envisaged a target of skilling 500 million people by 2022. However, the latest NSSO (2009-10) figures are shocking for the proportion of persons who had vocational training in the age group 15-59 years — only 2% for formal and 5% for non-formal vocational training, leaving a large residue without any vocational training.
India is privileged to have the youngest working population and by 2020 it would be the youngest nation with 29 years as the average age of an Indian, much lower than other countries like China and the US with 37 years and Japan with 48 years. Moreover, it is also estimated that between 2010 and 2030, India would have an edge over other countries due to its demographic bulge.
In this context, it calls for a serious attention towards skilling people and enhancing their employability.
A major issue in skill development is the mismatch between the supply and demand of skills. Skills need to be integrated into the education curriculum. Further, to address the issue of skills mismatch, there is need to build on education-industry interface and there needs to be continuous updating of these programmes.
The demographic changes in the population and the changing nature of the world of work call for a paradigm shift in the skill development policy. Considering its unique mandate to equip people with knowledge and skills for the world of work, it is imperative that the skill development policy be drawn from a comprehensive skills information base.
However, we do not have an adequate skills information system and this issue needs to be addressed. The existing labour market information system becomes redundant in the present context for being more inclined towards quantitative parameters that may not suffice for information required to provide a reference point and for formulating programmes for skill development.
There is need to bridge the gap between quantitative and qualitative data and surveys need to be more frequent and regular to capture the dynamism of the labour market and monitor interim fluctuations. It is also essential to carry out tracer studies of the vocational pass outs both at micro and macro level in order to gauge the effectiveness of the existing programmes.
(Vineeta Sirohi is associate professor, National University of Educational Planning & Administration, New Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.)