Skill Education for Skill India

Muralidharan, Chairperson, TMI GroupIn the last few years, skill education has come to the forefront. This article talks about a few key insights from our experience in the skilling space. Basically, the first part is to understand the demographics - how many people are dropping out of schools, how many people are passing out of colleges - out of the 12 million people who are coming into skilling space, more than half of them are graduates, 5.9 million. Currently, there is more need to skill graduates than anyone else. The entire current skilling program is focused at school dropouts. The government focus not in the graduate space, because graduate education, especially, engineering is privatized charging high fee structures. Hence, the government believes the college is responsible for their employability and employment as well. This understanding is wrong because the largest segment of graduates passing out is B.A., BSc and B.Com which are around five million and not engineers. There non-engineering grads are mostly from low rung government colleges or very poor trusts which are as good as government college.

The logic that the college must provide training since fee structures are high is valid only for engineering and MBAs, not for B.A., B.Sc. B.Com. Skilling programs are a top-up over and above the graduation courses that candidates do – students should not opt out of regular graduation and opt for skilling courses. For example, B.Com is a general program but if you want to become a GST expert, you have to undergo a GST skilling program. So, depending on what role you want to do, you need to get skilled. Hence, the first key insight is – the government skilling focus needs to shift to the Graduate space, NOW!

Secondly, let’s understand the purpose of skilling? There is a misunderstanding about skilling that if you skill candidates for a longer duration of time they are productive on the job. This is a myth. Training should be connected to skilling. The idea is to get
people onto the first job as early as possible. That should be the intention of skilling but to get the first job they need a only minimal amount of training and not the maximum amount of training. That should be the intention of skilling. What is the minimum amount of training necessary to get them onto the first job? Today, the training programs are designed to maximize skilling. Hence, the second insight is – minimal training is required.

Skilling programs are a top-up over and above the graduation courses that candidates do - students should not opt out of regular graduation and opt for skilling courses

Thirdly, the longer the duration of training, the lesser the absorption. The entire government skilling program is being pushed towards longer duration without understanding that the students cannot absorb. Especially the school dropouts and college low performers are unable to grasp the classroom model of training. Even the short duration programs must be activity based training and discovery based learning rather than theoretical learning. Hence, the third insight - The longer the duration of training, lesser is the learning. Lower learning leads to higher dropouts.

Fourthly, many of the skill programs that end with certification are not successful because, at the end, they are unable to demonstrate the skills and get a job! The end purpose of skilling must be first job therefore the job must be the center of skilling. The skill program must make the candidates attractive to the employers. Hence, the fourth insight, people are not looking for skill certificates they want jobs.

Fifthly, the focus of a skill program should be on productivity. What should we train them on so that they become productive on day-1. That is what employers want; they do not want demonstration of skills. Demonstration of productivity is more important - there is gap between skill and productivity. Skill is input side productivity is output side. For example, the question is, what are the skills you need to do this job, design a training program around that. This is the skill based training program. The productivity based training program question, what are the skills required in this job, which have the highest impact on productivity and design a training program only around them. This is a productivity based training program. In this design, there are no surprises on the job and this is what we do job-instruction-method. Hence, fifth insight, if you design the program around output, the entire skill program will look very different.

Now the question arises - the above prescribed model talks about getting a job, but what about growing in a job? Once the candidate gets a job, learns on the job and performs the job well, to grow into the next role, he needs to undergo an ‘up skilling’ program. Now the government is putting a lot of focus on upskilling. So instead of putting the entire budget for training for a job, we must put part of the money on training for a job and the other half on upskilling to the next role.