Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Prime Minister Calls For Skill, Reskill, Upskill

These are times for change, times for opportunity; yet times made harsh by the covid-19 pandemic. Corona has wrought havoc on the economy all over the world. India too faced economic slowdown during the first quarter of this fiscal; but, as the global economy continues to be on a slippery slope, the Indian economy is already on the rebound.

In such a situation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hit the nail right on the head by insisting that skilling, reskilling and up-skilling are the biggest need of the hour for a growing economy like India. Addressing the Centenary Convocation 2020 of the University of Mysore through video conference, Prime Minister said the University of Mysore is the centre of the great education system of ancient India, the aspirations and capabilities of future India and has realized the vision of “Rajarshi” Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar and Dr. M. Visvesvaraya. He referred to stalwarts like Bharat Ratna Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who taught at the University.

Prime Minister exhorted the students to use their knowledge obtained through education at various stages of their real life. He termed real life as a great university which teaches various ways for applicability of knowledge.

The import of the Prime Minister’s statement is that change is the only constant to keep up the India growth story when times are challenging. Nothing can be further from the truth.

A recent McKinsey Global Institute study has concluded that between 400 million and 800 million jobs the world over will be mechanised by 2030. The only way the business and industry can grow is by constantly reskilling the workforce, it says.

According to a recent survey by National Association of Software companies  (NASSCOM), in the IT sector in India alone, approximately 40% of the estimated four million workers will need to re-skill themselves in the years by coping with new-fangled technologies like cloud-computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data Analytics.

There is no doubt that India needs to equip its youth with greater work skills. At present, the country churns out a mostly literate workforce without the requisite marketable skills in a globalised world. According to a report by the Adviser to the Prime Minister on the National Council on Skill Development, among those in the 15 to 29 years age group, only 2 per cent have received formal vocational training, and 8 per cent non-formal vocational training.

Across the globe, millions of young people are kept out of work because of lack of skills. One reason for youth unemployment is structural unemployment, a mismatch between the skills that workers in the economy can offer and the skills demanded by employers from the workers. Young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults due to the lack of skills, they are being continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs and greater labour market inequalities. Besides, women are more likely to be underemployed and under-paid and forced to undertake part-time jobs or work under temporary contracts. Structural unemployment affects all regions around the world and it impacts not only economies, but also hampers the transition to equitable and inclusive societies as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Experts say that the need for “skill, reskill and up-skill” could be gauged from the fact that globally, one in five young people are ‘not in employment, education or training’ (NEET). While the youth population grew by 139 million between 1997 and 2017, problem is that the youth labour force shrank by 58.7 million. Almost two out of five young workers in emerging and developing economies live on less than US $ 3.10 a day, equivalent to some 200 Indian Rupees.

Innovation is the key for skill development. As Prime Minister Modi rightly pointed out during the convocation address. He observed that institutions should focus on “Incubation Centres”, ‘Technology Development Centres’, ‘Industry-academia linkage’ and ‘Inter-disciplinary research’. It is indeed heartening to note that infrastructure creation and structural reforms have been given special focus in the education sector reforms by the Modi government.

Script: Sunil Gatade, Political Commentator

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