Monday, 5 August 2013

India 2022: High on Skills but Low on Jobs?

- by Janie Lee

In an article posted by Forbes India on July 10 2013, Dinesh Narayanan looks at the vocational skilling landscape in India. The article touches on a few of the issues that pose fundamental challenges to achieving the ambitious goal of training 500 million youth by 2022. Among these concerns are on-the-job training, certification, and a lack of meaningful interaction between stakeholders. Ultimately, Narayanan drives home the point that policy must be “democratically made and autocratically implemented.”

While both the private and public sectors are grappling with the right strategy to implement on an autocratic level, individual organizations are finding degrees of success in placing students and recovering fees. By sharing best practices and innovative models, all stakeholders can have more input in determining which strategies could and should be scaled up. Only then can policy be made democratically.

On a smaller scale, Pratham has had varying levels of success attempting to create training and placements for youth in India. The methods below highlight the successful practices that address some of the concerns that Narayanan has mentioned in his article. We hope to continue an honest conversation about what is and is not working within the vocational skilling landscape in India and invite others to do the same.

Strategic Partnerships
Former labor minister Mallikarjun Kharge stressed the need for active involvement between the public and private sectors in order to sure proper and high-quality implementation of programs. Within each of Pratham’s industry-specific programs, we have partnered with industry leaders and the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC). The partners serve as knowledge partners and support organizations for students from beginning to end. Partners such as L&T gives us financial support, whereas others like Taj provide industry exposure through on the job training for one week.  As knowledge partners, organizations provide oversight during the setup phase of each center, help develop course content, share assessment tools, provide joint certification, provide placement linkages, and help audit the center to ensure high-quality delivery of training.

Narayanan states that one of the best ways to train people is directly on the job. Without any hands-on experience, students may fall privy to the knowledge gap that exists between theoretical knowledge and practical experience.

In order to ensure that the training students receive is relevant to the skills that they will need on the job, Pratham has set up practical training and internship programs. For example, bedside assistant students will spend up to five months at hospital to receive practical training while receiving a stipend. Although students are given interactive lessons and exercises during the theoretical portion of the bedside assistance course, they do not yet have a real sense of what it is like to be in a hospital. This practical portion of the course ensures preparation as well as confidence on the part of the student, prior to entering the workforce as a full-time employee.

In regards to certification, the Forbes article states, “the best certificate is the one given by the actual employer. What the country needs is a good certification infrastructure and a system that delivers skilled people to prospective employers.”

Following the students’ training and final examinations, candidates are presented with joint certification from all relevant stakeholders. For example, hospitality candidates will receive certification accredited by Pratham, Taj group of Hotels, and NSDC. This cooperative partnership provides credibility to the quality of training achieved and helps students attain employment. Students are placed with our placement partners post completion of the training, with placement rates being c. 90% across both our Hospitality & Construction Programs.

While these methods provide an insight to the overarching results of our programming, they offer only a glimpse of the experiences Pratham has had. The opportunity to share more insights, failures, and experiences is a necessary one to understanding best practices and future policy.

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