The juggernaut to skill India en masse started rolling in 2015 with major flagship vocational training initiatives under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
In our first article on evaluating skilling schemes, we looked at the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme. We turn our attention now to the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), a free-of-cost large-scale skills development scheme targeting those at the bottom of the skills pyramid- mainly youth and adults from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The PMKVY provides vocational training through the Recognition of Prior Learning and short-term courses. The scheme was extended for a further four years (2016-20) with a significant injection of Rs. 12,000 crores (up from Rs. 1,500 crores in 2015) to impart employable skills to 1 crore youth over four years. The objective of PMKVY was to create industry-relevant employment-ready skilled youth- mainly to feed into the simultaneously launched Skill India campaign.
Has it worked?
In November 2018, the target to skill 1 crore youth by 2020 had fallen short by 64%. A year on, just over 69 lakh individuals have been skilled as of November 2019. Of the 30.21 lakh candidates trained under the short-term training route, viewed half empty or half full, a smattering 15.4 lakh have been placed in jobs. Placement data under PMKVY is reported within a 90 days window post-certification of trained candidates. Many have called the PMKVY a lukewarm training scheme. Some believe that the scheme’s focus should be on ‘employable skills’ rather than on Skill India. “One way to consider a change would be to look at the skills required for the ‘jobs of tomorrow’. As the demands are changing, we will need better-equipped people for tomorrow, than popular skills of ‘yesterday’,” explains Suchita Dutta, Executive Director, Indian Staffing Federation.
What Can Be Done?
As is ubiquitous with most things Indian, the PMKVY may have also fallen victim to the numbers game. More is not always better- the PMKVY dashboard shows there are around 1200 job roles that the scheme caters to. Is there a case here to re-evaluate job roles on criteria such as current demand, projected future demand, job roles in high growth sectors, and higher wages linked roles? The last point, as elucidated by Mohandas Pai, “India is not producing good jobs, but creating a lot of Rs 10,000-Rs 15,000 low-paid jobs which are not fancied by degree holders. India has a wage problem, not a job problem.”
Another exercise which we believe can bring tremendous value to the future legacy of the PMKVY is to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of its own performance since 2015- a SWOT analysis if you like.
Build on strengths– which job roles and specific courses do the PMKVY excel in- from the perspectives of quality of staff, curriculum, and the ultimate litmus test- a strong skills training- employment link. It needs to go a step further with periodic evaluations of candidate performance in the real world of employment. Placement figures alone are only half the story. What has been the real impact and value add of a PMKVY trained candidate in employment?
Iron out weaknesses– drop obsolete and irrelevant courses and job roles, strengthen curricula, quality of trainers and sharpen focus on successfully placing candidates in jobs. The latter may mean a re-jig of the current PMKVY framework. Project Implementing Agencies are largely responsible for the operational side of the PMKVY- training, certification, and placements, receiving funds at various stages. The latest public policy research has revealed that the incentive to improve placements is the lowest with only 20% of funds received at this crucial point. Certification gets the lion’s share at 50%, and 30% at enrolment.
Scan for opportunities– be future-ready by identifying labour-intensive high growth industries especially in the services sector- such as Beauty and Wellness– which currently holds a market potential of Rs 80,000 crore with prospects for generating employment in weighty numbers.
Counter threats– What factors are undermining the promise of the PMKVY? Stronger partnerships with industry for mentorships and apprenticeships can counteract the perceived irrelevance of the scheme to augment its inherent value as a market-relevant, forward-thinking skills training scheme making youth truly employable.
Notwithstanding a massive 237% increase in cash injection to the MSDE for skill development between 2015-2018, large underutilisation of funds forced the Ministry of Finance to slash the budget by 56% against a grant ask of Rs. 7,696.54 crores in 2018-19. Even so, merely 23% of the Rs. 3400 crores sanctioned in 2018-19 was utilised.
The MSDE stated lack of “minimum required staff to man essential functions” as a roadblock to optimal fund utilisation for PMKVY 1.0 and ‘considerable time taken’ to implement ‘various quality parameters’ for PMKVY 2.0. Besides a ‘foolproof action plan…and a strong monitoring mechanism for optimal utilisation of allocated funds”, a Standing Committee Report has further expounded to the MSDE that non-existent R&D in skills training is a key bottleneck holding back skills development in India. The Committee has recommended that the MSDE formulate a separate budget for R&D in their grant seeking.
Power to States
For a more focused PMKVY, the MSDE’s Vision 2025 agenda includes decentralisation by removing the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) as the implementor of the PMKVY thus handing more autonomy to state level Sector Skills Councils and MSMEs. This comes at the back of a Rs. 560 crores pledge by the Centre to State Governments to promote locally relevant ground-up demand-driven skill development.
Slated to be launched around March 2020, although not much information is currently available on what we can expect from the ‘bigger and larger’ phase three of PMKVY, Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Mahendra Nath Pandey has for now called out for greater participation of the private sector in promoting apprenticeships within the PMKVY model. Clearly, there is heightened recognition of the promise of apprenticeships to be integrated with all forms of skills training.