Essay : Public-Private Partnership in Preparing the Curriculum for Training the Market-Relevant Skills

Youth population comprises nearly half of the global unemployed people and represents the largest ratio in the world history in both absolute and relative numbers. The World Bank reports that 1.3 billion 15-30 year old people live in the developing world and as these young people start stepping into the job market, making them equipped with the needed skills by the marketplace gets imperative.

Shortage of skilled, productive workers and a disparity between the types of skills training offered and the skills needed by industry are among the universally identified constraints that limit investment and economic growth. Retraining to meet new employment opportunities is decisive as well in developing countries, as the emerging markets across the globe necessitate on skilful workers for new jobs generated by these growing economies. Thus, for initial skills development and reskilling, technical and vocational education and training are quintessential.

Bringing the world of education and training to the world of work is what it takes to give the relevant skills training. Training is significant to the needs of businesses and labour markets and by bringing together enterprises, labour, government and trainers at the local, industry and national levels, training can be ensured to be accessible to young people and workers throughout their careers. This partnership enables innovation and technology adaptation and also helps in promoting investment and creating more and better jobs further ensuring that skills drive change.

An Overview of India’s Position

Being the youngest populations globally, 47.8% of India’s population is below 29 years as per statistics which is going to increase to 49.9% in 2021. With the prospect of 365 million people being eligible to join the workforce over the next 15 years, many skill development initiatives were taken traditionally by the government and the establishment of Industrial Training Institutes and Centres were also instigated.

It was in 2009 that the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) was inaugurated with the mandate of skilling 150 million people by 2022 in 20 focus sectors identified by the government. The informal segment also came to the fore to adopt a three-pronged approach that would revolve around creating, funding and enabling sustainable skills training initiatives in the private space. Around 49 private sector training providers got approval till May 2012 by the NSDC. These sectors emphasized on skill training 67 million people in 21 high growth areas by 2022.

India is speculated to be the third largest economy in the world by 2035 after US and China.  As a rapidly growing nation full of opportunities, India has already got the eyes of many global companies set upon it.  A dynamic change is experienced in Indian labour market. In spite of growing labour pool, India’s major concern lies in employability which points towards the missing link between the formal education system and vocational training. It becomes more challenging with the high school dropout rates and low turnout at the vocational training institutes. Merely 2 % of the Indian workers are formally trained and only 15% of the workers in the manufacturing sector have received in-service training. As per Government of India’s report 2007, about 93% of the labour force works in unorganized sector without any formal training.

Changing Path

The Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in the early years of post-independence India were set up by the government to offer skilled manpower for fulfilling the needs of country’s emerging industrial sector. Besides, the government-run ITIs, private-sector run Industrial Training Centres (ITCs) have also been set up. The growing numbers of both the ITC and ITI have been targeting numerous vocational courses in order to cater to the changing industrial needs.

PPP – Public-Private Partnership – Bringing a Transformation

For the overhaul of the ITIs, in early 2000s the government took to embrace the concept of public-private partnership in the ITIs. The plan was laid out to upgrade 100 ITIs through domestic resources, 400 ITIs with World Bank assistance and the rest of the 1, 396 through PPP modes.

Public- private partnership is envisioned in form of active partaking of industry/ private sector at every stage of design and execution of the scheme. The NSDC was set up as a no-profit-no-loss company through the public-private partnership route to catalyze private sector contribution in the skills area.

Many big corporate groups and educational institutions have realized the significance of setting up skilling ventures of their own and many have also aligned with the NSDC to start skill development ventures.

The project proposals of skill development submitted by these groups to the NSDC orient towards engineering and manufacturing skills majorly. They are thoroughly evaluated on several parameters that encompass the assessment of market demand for trained manpower of targeted sector, comprehensive evaluation of course curriculum with emphasis on practical training to meet industry norms and study model for sourcing trainers and collaborations with various corporates for placement to guarantee the holistic approach of the business model.

Reaching the masses with quality training at reduced costs still remains the biggest challenge and diversity of the states and different sectors pose another challenge for scaling up of sustainable models.

The Communication Campaign of the NSDC aims at glorifying the pursuit of skills and explaining to all stakeholders how a skilled workforce is extremely important for India to grow and prosper. For the same, many stakeholders will need to be aligned and training organizations will have to build connections with the heart and soul of many young people in the country to tailor their offerings so that their aspirations are met and needs of the employers also get fulfilled simultaneously.

With a proper model in place, the public-private approach can succeed as already the NSDC partners have demonstrated that skill development can become a sustainable business with the prospective of it becoming the largest social enterprise sector. Skill development still needs a strong foothold in India through coordinated approach that involves different areas of government action on workforce participation, social inclusion and innovation. Only through this, the policies on skills can unite with the wider economic, employment and social strategies.

On one hand, an enabling environment needs to be provided by central and state governments and on the other hand, employers and industry have to take the leadership for identifying the competencies and development of competency standards. Then, can they carry out an analysis of skill demand and development of curriculum to further facilitate training of trainers and help in the delivery of training, monitoring and evaluation, participation in affiliation and accreditation process.

All stakeholders must have financial stake in the skills process and industries have to realize that collaborative partnerships involve everyone’s benefit. Rather than individual company-related efforts, it is the sectoral model that plans for the workforce development of a sector that fairs well in succeeding.

Leveraging technology by organizations will considerably increase scale, reduce cost and improve learning. A forward looking and outcome based workforce planning will be fruitful and the next best practice should probably be outsourcing to increase return on investment in training and development. Most importantly, rather than being limited to HR/ CSR cells of organizations, the skill development needs to become a CEO-level agenda and should be seen as a serious issue.