Skill Development in the Indian Context

As the global community focuses on reskilling through initiatives such as ‘The Reskilling Revolution’ which was set up two years back by the World Economic Forum and is said to have benefitted 350 million people. India with its young demographic has to address the problem at multiple levels to deliver a significant impact. In addition to reskilling its workforce, India must focus on skill development for the 13 million youth in the age groups 18-25, who are added to the workforce every year. In addition, the country must also focus on upskilling those who are likely to be left behind by automation and the ensuing tech revolution. This immense responsibility gathers greater complexity because over 90% of the workforce is engaged in the non-formal sector and seems to be beyond the purview of regulation and training. Our skill development strategy must follow a three-pronged approach that encompasses a large variety of skills, nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit to bring people within the fold of the formal economy, and extends reskilling opportunities to those likely to be left behind in the technological transformation that is characteristic of Industry 4.0.

Skill development Across Industries

In India, we have followed a linear progression towards education and skill development where one follows the other. Academic learning happens at school or college while experiential learning happens in the workplace. This model has not served us well as is evident with the rate of graduate and post-graduate employability hovering at 49.5%. Policy makers are cognizant of this lacuna and have thus revamped the education framework with the launch of the NEP 2020. This new framework draws attention to the fact that education and skill development must happen in tandem and right from school through to university.

In the past skill development through apprenticeships has primarily focused on developing the skills required in the manufacturing sector however, with changing times we need to expand the sphere of skill development to include new-age tech skills such as coding, AI, Robotics, 3D Printing, etc. The promotion of green growth programs for efficient use of energy across economic sectors is quite promising in terms of the creation of jobs by adopting sustainable practices across all sectors. Young people must be encouraged to explore apprenticeship opportunities in these areas to develop the skills that will garner greater relevance in the coming years.

Fuelling the spirit of Entrepreneurship

India’s emergence as the third-largest start-up ecosystem in the world also indicates the rise of innovation and entrepreneurship. This has been the result of several factors such as increased prosperity, greater access to education and technology, and more progressive attitudes toward personal autonomy and self-expression.

However, many of our startups fail to realize their full potential due to a dearth of proficient talent which can help them build and scale their ideas. This is quite unfortunate and must be addressed as India is home to a large generation of young people who can collectively be described as Generation S. This demographic is characterized by the ubiquity of technology in their lives. Digital assistants, gaming, and immersive technologies are a part of their home and work experiences. Our vision for the future must be directed towards equipping them with the skills required to master the art of digital transformation. Degree apprenticeship programs would go a long way in nurturing and facilitating the growth of young talent and strengthening innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.

Reskilling for Industry 4.0

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) reskilling of the current and future workforce can add $8.3 trillion to the global economy by 2030. As the world becomes more reliant on automation and technology we will find ourselves in the midst of two contradictory yet simultaneous phenomena: job cuts and talent crunch. Automation, an aging population, and skill deficits will lead us to a situation where we would need to deal with layoffs and labor shortages at the same time. A churn in the world of work will lead to the loss of existing jobs but will also add an additional 76 million jobs in green and social sectors by 2030 in 10 economies alone: Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States as per research conducted by the WEF and Accenture.

Therefore, it is essential to focus on reskilling as a means to improve employability and prepare for the future of work. Reskilling will help to minimize the increasing polarization among the haves and the have-nots of digital skills. It will help to bring many back into the workforce and also address the impending talent shortage which if left unchecked can have a disastrous effect on the economy. 

As the world moves toward the greater adoption of technology, it is imperative that we focus on skill development to increase employability and drive innovation. This will help individuals command greater control over their economic well-being and at the same time cater to the needs of the industry and drive the growth of the economy.

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