India’s skills ecosystem may need to transform itself to ensure that the country is in a stronger position to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of “substantially increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship”.
And here’s the reason why the skills ecosystem needs a re-look: India’s skill development efforts continue to be too heavily focused on providing low-order skills that will yield little or no benefits in an increasingly automated and upwardly mobile world.
Ensuring Long-Term Livelihood
Having large numbers of mobile phone repairers when falling prices (not talking of high-end models here) make it possible for ordinary Indians to junk their old handsets for new ones or raising a battalion of computer operators when software is getting more user-friendly by the day will not ensure long-term sustainable livelihood opportunities for youngsters being trained for such vocations.
All these efforts to raise the percentage of “skilled workers” in the country are aimed at strengthening the revenue and profitability of ever-mushrooming vocational training providers (VTPs) across the country.
Somehow, in all the recent frenetic activity around skill development (bolstered by generous funding from multilateral agencies), we seem to have forgotten to take stock of the evolving scenario. Employers no longer are interested in just domain skills but also the employee’s readiness to unlearn those and pick up new skills and competencies to meet changing business requirements.
The need to inculcate in all trainees the realisation that ‘lifelong learning’ and continuous upgradation of skill sets is the only way they can hope to hold on to salaried jobs in future.
It may be relevant to point out that the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently said that 65 percent of the kids of today will be doing jobs that have not been invented yet.
Impact of Automation
The spread of automation has already put many jobs at risk.
In such a scenario, it may thus be a good idea to create a road map for equipping job seekers and those already in employment with alternative and/or transferrable skills. This will help them stay relevant even in an increasingly automated workplace (keeping in mind that not everybody is cut out to be an entrepreneur).
Such a plan with clearly defined timelines and allocation of responsibilities among different stakeholders would go a long way in assuaging the concerns of millions of Indians. It will help them cope with a new world where technology will render redundant many current repetitive low and medium-skilled jobs and replace these with new ones.
Fear of losing livelihoods due to the growing threat posed by automation have the potential to act as perfect recipes for fomenting social and economic unrest.
Given its implications for a country with a large, young population, the soon-to-start fiscal year could be an ideal time for starting the process of rebooting India’s skills domain.
(The author is an independent communications consultant. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)