Skills gap hinders future employability

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Skills gap hinders future employability

Thursday, 21 September 2023 | Dinesh Sood

Skills gap hinders future employability

It is crucial to bridge the skills gap by providing training in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning

The rapidly changing nature of jobs and skills requirements across the world is creating a skills gap that hinders employment opportunities. Business leaders need to quickly identify this gap and prepare their workforce for the future by providing clear direction to employees on how to build the skills they need to succeed. In the Asia-Pacific region, approximately 86 million workers need to acquire advanced digital skills through upskilling or reskilling to keep up with the fast pace of technological changes.

The UNDP's Human Development Index ranks India at 132 out of 191 countries. This is a critical concern, as companies face a shortage of skilled workers while millions of educated individuals remain unemployed. To address this problem, India has been working to transform into a skill-based economy over the past decade. The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and the National Skill Development Corporation have been established to bring skill development to the forefront. The Skill India Mission, which began in July 2015, aims to address the shortage of skilled workers in the country. However, there is still a huge mismatch between the number of candidates trained, certified, and finally placed, with the International Labour Organization predicting a shortage of around 29 million skilled personnel in India by 2030.

 Employees across various industries are facing pressure to upskill and reskill, but many find it challenging to take time out for learning due to long work hours. A lack of support systems that prioritize worker well-being can hinder motivation for upskilling and reskilling. Organizations can create new financial incentives through skills-based compensation to encourage employees to self-learn new skills.

A skilled workforce is critical for higher growth, but only 45% of trained individuals in India are employable, with only 4.69% of the workforce having vocational training. This indicates a significant skill gap in the country, which can be attributed to a lack of training infrastructure and limited private-sector participation. The lack of a monitoring body for these training institutes is also a contributing factor.

India's demographic advantage will become a challenge if the young population is not skillfully upskilled, reskilled, and skilled. By 2025, an estimated 70% of India's population will be of working age, and without proper employment opportunities, unemployment will remain a significant challenge. The National Education Policy (2020) needs to make sincere efforts in skill development from the school level. There is a need to create a sound National Vocational Education and Training System that provides every child with an option to go for vocational education and training after 10 years of schooling. Most developed countries have a well-defined national vocational education and training system that facilitates job readiness among youth and encourages skill-empowered entrepreneurship.

 Inadequacies in skills are directly linked to the kind of education that is being imparted right from the school level and the ecosystem we put in place to equip every job seeker with market-driven skills. If someone wishes to be a carpenter, plumber or electrician, he or she needs to have undergone at least a globally certified course for which we need to have a skill training centre in every high school where job seekers should be trained in the fields of their interest during non-school hours. Similarly, education providers must support students with knowledge and skills relevant to the world of work to make them productive and able to be employed. All skill courses at school levels must be synchronised with employment for a wholesome integration between skill providers and industries will be of paramount importance.

 Today, education is not confined to what is taught in schools and colleges, but the scope of learning has become wider, owing to the evolving market and technological advancement. To secure a career in the competitive and evolving job market, upskilling and remaining industry-relevant are crucial for youths. Acquiring market-driven skills will offer great placement opportunities to the youths and help them build promising careers.

India currently lacks an effective vocational education and training system that is both aspirational and accessible to all young people. To address this issue and achieve the national goal of making India the skills capital of the world, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship should establish a National Skills University (NSU), as proposed in the National Skills Universities Bill 2015. This university would offer industry-relevant curricula and skill-based certificates, diplomas, and degree programs to enhance employability.

 In addition to the NSU, state governments can establish Multi-skills Development Centres (MSDC) in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode. These centres can identify skill gaps in major industrial clusters and provide cluster-specific Skill Development Centres to upgrade the skills of existing workers. Advanced Skill Development Centres can also be set up to provide the latest know-how and courses to meet the high-end skill requirements of the industry. The World Bank has approved the $250 million Skill India Mission Operation (SIMO) to improve the marketability of short-term skill development courses of 3-12 months.

To keep pace with the rapidly evolving technological landscape, it is essential to conduct global skill gap mapping and shift recruitment from "degree-based" to "skill-based". According to a report by The World Economic Forum, 150 million new technology jobs will be created globally over the next five years, with 77% of all jobs requiring digital skills by 2030. Currently, only 33% of technology jobs worldwide are being filled by skilled workers, which could hinder technological advancements on a global scale.

Therefore, it is crucial to bridge the skills gap by providing training in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain, robotics, IoT, 3D printing, drones, and data analytics. A skilled workforce capable of understanding, implementing, and driving innovation is essential to the success of these technologies and the industries that rely on them. By focusing on vocational education and the latest skills training, India can create a workforce equipped to meet future demands.

The writer is a Co-Founder and MD of Orane International, a Training Partner with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), and a Network Member of India International Skill Centres, (an initiative of GoI)

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