With all eyes and ears on the new Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s Union Budget 2019, will the vicious cycle of a skills-jobs mismatch in the Indian economy receive the necessary gravitas with improved policy and a funds boost for skilling initiatives? A staggering 43% of India’s youth are NEET (not in employment, education or training). India’s employment problem is mainly a problem of skills and wages arising from a severe lack of vocational skills. Skills development blended with mainstream education needs to take root urgently. How can the education system become more agile with ‘four qualification corridors’ in the vocational skills learning space? A mere degree with no real work experience is steadily losing relevance in the labour market. Hence work-based learning such as apprenticeships must seamlessly blend into a system of credits and certifications within traditional education. Which proposals of the New Education Policy (NEP) appear to be a step in the right direction for Indian education? And has vocational skills training found its rightful place in the NEP?
Very little of the 10,000 crores allocated to the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) in 2015 has made any sizeable impact on boosting apprenticeship numbers. At best India has around 3 lakh apprentices in the country today, approximately a dismal 0.1% of the workforce. Apprenticeships are a proven approach to enhance youth employability and ease the transition from school to work. Hence, increasing apprenticeship numbers to at least 3% has become mission critical if India has any chance of reaching the required scale in skills-based workforce planning and development. How can the current subsidy model of apprenticeships be changed to encourage more employers to engage in the NAPS? What else can the government do to engage employers within the apprenticeship framework to a) curb informality in the workforce b) boost productivity in the workforce? With a plethora of skill development schemes implemented by a maze of different government departments and ministries, how can consolidation of all ‘learning by doing’ programs further bring more employers into the apprenticeship fold?