Re-skilling and constant upskilling can make India global hub of industry 4.0

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It is said that learning never exhausts the mind and that constant learning and skilling are the essence of human existence. Indian philosophy and thought have always valued learning and cherished teachers and learners through the guru-shishya parampara (teacher-learner tradition).

While learning and skilling have always been important, constant skill upgradation has acquired new importance in the ongoing global scenario, especially with the advent of industry 4.0 that seeks to redefine manufacturing and allied industries through the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and processes like additive manufacturing.

India, with its large base of skilled manpower and favorable demography, is best placed to take advantage of industry 4.0 and become an industrial and technological superpower.

This year, the World Youth Skills Day has an especially pertinent theme: 'Reimagining Youth Skills Post-Pandemic'. Over the past one and a half years, as the world has fought the global pandemic, the importance of skills among the youth has increased. COVID-19 is a black swan event that has forced the youth to re-skill and upskill.

World Youth Skills Day 2021 marks the six years of the Skill India Mission. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana has trained 1.28 crore youth in India, including 46 lakh women. More than 56 percent of students have been linked to employment under the placement-linked programme of the scheme. By 2022, the Skill India Mission aims to train over 40 crore people in India in different skills by 2022.

India is a story where the central government's initiatives have been matched with vigour, by skilling initiatives run by the various state governments. Take Madhya Pradesh as an example. The state's Mukhya Mantri Kaushal Samvardhan Yojna (MMKSY), which provides access to short-term demand-driven training courses in employable trades, and a similar scheme, the Mukhya Mantri Kaushalya Yojna (MMKY) for women, have nearly 8.5 lakh students training through 424 registered training service providers and 856 affiliated training centres. Training is provided across 32 sectors.

This is just one success story. What has also been particularly encouraging is the energy with which India's non-profit organizations have taken the lead in helping skill the youth. Organizations like The/Nudge Foundation run the Future Perfect skilling programme, through which they aim to skill 30,000 youth by 2022. Another civil society organization, Smile Foundation, runs Smile Twin E-learning Programme (STeP), a programme that trains underprivileged youth in skills required in the job market. So far, 47,000 youth have been trained through the programme and 28,000 have been placed in over 200 companies through 95 operational projects across India.

India is taking rapid strides in skilling youth, but we still need to dramatically scale up efforts and ensure the training provided is in step with requirements made by Industry 4.0. This requires the constant involvement of India Inc., which can guide governments and training institutions on the kind of skills required. Partnerships for training the youth, established between governments, corporates and civil society must increase manifold; for they can make a profound difference to equipping Indian youth with skill sets that are required and relevant.

In an era of specialization, India must not miss the bus and we as a country must do all we can to skill, re-skill and upskill youth in line with changing priorities. We would do well by learning from the experience of industrial powerhouses like Japan and Germany, which are at the vanguard of the next industrial revolution.

Such skilling of Indian youth, in line with emerging industrial requirements, will help Indian companies become a bigger, more integral part of global value chains across industries. So, there is a compelling business case to be made for corporate India to increase investment in skilling our country's youth.

The new education policy also rightly lays adequate emphasis on the training of youth and on digital learning. What is required is increased coordination between stakeholders to ensure we have a highly skilled labor force.

While it is true that India must urgently invest in skilling the youth so we can benefit from our demographic dividend, it is also important that we as citizens do not look at skilling as merely a means for earning money. In that sense, we must broaden our outlook towards skilling and look at constant skill upgradation as a way of life, much like how our ancestors envisioned it.

(The author is the national secretary, Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas)

Also See: World Youth Skills Day: Theme this year is 'Reimagining Youth Skills Post-Pandemic'; history and significance

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