Skill Universities Can Help India Become A Superpower

The world has seen several changes and transitions. However, none can compare with the drastic transformation Coronavirus has wrought on the world in the last 6 months.

The way we work, the way we perceive work and 'how work can be done' have changed overnight. For example, concepts like 'Work From Home' which, though not new, were not very popular in all sectors and a significant chunk of the economy was still not open to it. However, the pandemic has made these concepts household words and even government organisations have become open to such ideas. The education sector has seen the unprecedented rise in the use of technology in the last few months. Simultaneously, there have been some instances of teachers not being able to cope with these technologies.

To keep pace with these changes, the skilled professionals need to update their skills and learn new skills. "Reskilling Revolution", launched by the World Economic Forum, aims to ready the skilled workers for the future challenges that are supposed to be created by the technological changes. This initiative also aims to 'skill up' the workers for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2030. The question in front of us is - "Is India equipped to deal with these changes?"

According to a report by the International Labour Organisation at the beginning of this year, India is going to face a 29 million skill-deficit by 2030. This is despite a massive population. This pre-Covid picture becomes bleaker when we bring into consideration the changes in the world that the Covid-19 crisis has caused.

According to the India Skill Report 2020, India's employability percentage stands at 46.21% in the current year. In 2019, it was 47.38% and in 2018, it was 45.6%. Though it is a significant rise from 40.44% of 2017, the stagnancy at around 46% is visible for the last three years. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi are the states that have been seeing the highest hiring activity in past few years. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal, Orissa, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana are some of the states that have been in the top position in terms of supplying employable talent in recent years. But other regions need to step up to ensure the overall growth of the nation. This can be achieved by an aggressive approach to the issue of skill development. The setting up of Skill Universities, as proposed by the Modi Government, can significantly speed up this process.

The India Skill Report 2020 has put forward suggestions for the government, industry and the academia for improving the skill development scenario in the country. The suggestions for the academia are: 

- Updating curriculum as per the industry's requirements in collaboration with industry experts and the government

- Improving the education system by enhancing infrastructural facilities such as laboratories, research centers, faculties and imparting hands-on knowledge

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- Keeping students updated on industry trends through frequent industrial visits, internships and guest lectures

- Inculcating in students the attitude of continuous learning and unlearning, adapting to the changing work environment and pursuing the course and /or career they are truly passionate about.

These suggestions also emphasise the need for Skill Universities which can help reduce the regional disparity in terms of employability and skill. Industry-oriented courses and the synergies between industry and academia that these universities suggest can be a game changer. Having courses designed to meet the exact needs of the industry can magnify the employability of youths.

Presently, 47% of India's working population is millennial and the trend is likely to continue in the next ten years. For the purpose of catching and shaping these millennial according to the demands of the industry, skill universities will be the best platform. The percentage of a formally-trained workforce in India is alarmingly low (2.3%). Compared to economies like South Korea (96%), this number is negligible. To better this, we need to set up and make functional Skill Universities at a very rapid pace. The purely professional degrees offered by them in various fields are at par with regular academic degrees. Such regular degrees will also help in mainstreaming skill education in India.

India has a demographic dividend. Half of India's 1.2 billion people are under the age of 26. The median age of India by 2020 is projected to be 29. But to reap the benefit of being the youngest country in the world, India needs to skill its youth. It also needs to provide them with incentives to stay on and work in India. Tapping the potential of this demographic dividend would mean India becoming a global superpower. The Skill Universities can be the launch pad for this ambitious dream. 

(Vijayasai Reddy is Parliamentary Party Leader and National General Secretary of YSRCP.)

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