India has the demographic advantage of the youngest workforce, it can be the Human Resource Capital of the world by appropriately skilling its youth and convert this advantage into a dividend. With only 2.3 % of the workforce in India having undergone formal skill training, India faces a severe shortage of well-trained, skilled workers. Therefore, a pressing need is felt for scaling up skill training efforts to make the youth employable and meet the demand of employers thereby driving economic growth.
The enormity of India’s skilling challenge is further aggravated by the fact that the skilling efforts cut across multiple sectors and require the involvement of diverse stakeholders such as government departments at the Centre and state levels, training providers, employers, industry associations, assessment, certification bodies and trainees. The fact that the skill development programmes are spread across more than 20 central ministries and departments and several state governments indicate towards a need to align the efforts of all stakeholders in order to achieve the target of Skill India.
Owing to multiplicity of stakeholders and sectors in skilling ecosystem, it becomes imperative that decentralised mechanisms are adopted for targeted approach and coordinated efforts. Keeping this in mind, District Skilling Committees (DSCs) headed by district collectors were established by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MoSDE) in 2018. The DSCs are entrusted with district-level skill demand assessment, support in mobilisation, counselling, training, placement of candidates and grievance redressal, if any. However, there is a need to strengthen the district machinery for effective skill training implementation.
Decentralisation Supports Convergence
Decentralised mechanisms enable focussed interventions for meeting local needs utilising local resource mobilisation, disbursement of funds, involvement of people at the local level in the formulation and implementation. Further, it pushes towards operationalising interventions through bottom up approach thereby empowering districts to utilise the resources by keeping specific local needs in mind.
Decentralised framework through DSCs can support balanced development with convergence of resources while addressing the inter-sectoral priorities. This is facilitated by bringing relevant stakeholders together, identifying sectors with high demand for skill labour, need-based targets skilling schemes and allocation of funds through various departments for livelihood promotion activities.
District Skill Development Plans (DSDPs) can serve to provide a framework for convergence of programmes, financial resources, departments/disciplines and synergistic efforts of bodies or institutions associated with the projects of skill development and allied sectors.
A decentralised approach for skill training has been recently adopted by MoSDE under PMKVY 3.0 by giving active role to District Skill Committees (DSC) in skill training in order to improve quality of training through effective decentralised monitoring and reduced information asymmetry regarding the demand-supply dynamics of the district.
Evolution of DSC and its Role in Skill Training
Launched in 717 district across all states and UTs, DSC are composed of district-level government officials of various departments – skills, education, MSME, banking, urban and rural development and so on. Members from industry and civil society organisations can also be co-opted under DSC. The skilling ecosystem now functions through three-tiered structure of the ministry at the top, State Skill Development Missions (SSDMs) in the middle, followed by DSCs at the bottom. DSCs are tasked with, inter alia, developing annual district skill development plans, map demand and supply, support in implementation of central schemes – PMKVY, DDUGKY, DAY- NULM, coordination with relevant organisation such as Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), non-government organisations, industry for livelihood promotion activities, monitoring and evaluation of skilling activities.
Through these functions, DSCs can aid in optimal utilisation of disitrict resources through people-centric approach. Further, a structured skilling approach through DSCs aligns district level plans with state and national targets. However, with so many ministries and departments at the helm of skill training, well-coordinated efforts and comprehensive policy response is required for strengthening the capacity and charting an action plan for DSCs that can ensure smooth implementation and monitoring.
Review of Ecosystem in Selected Geographies
Discussions were held by NITI Aayog team with field functionaries from the districts to review the on ground functioning of DSCs. This generated following pathways towards strengthening DSCs:
Providing DSCs with support staff having skill training expertise will enhance capacity of DSCs. Since the members of DSC are from different departments and specialise in their sectors, there is a pressing need for technical experts at district level in skill training, IT, industry partnerships, finance for supporting DSC members in understanding the nuances of skill ecosystem and carrying out on ground implementation activities such as coordination different line departments and training centres, documentation of all skill development activities and best practices, maintaining monitoring and evaluation calendars.
Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) programme of SANKALP project, MoSDE, fellows have been placed in select districts for two years. Field functionaries reported that the MGN fellows were only dedicated resource in the district working for skilling initiatives. Hence, to ensure continuity and well-coordinated structured approach, a district level project management unit is felt necessary.
MoSDE has mandated the districts to form DSCs under chairmanship of district collectors, however, no funds have been allocated directly to DSCs. Funds are allocated to SSDMs through State Incentive Grant (SIG) from SANKALP project, which is then allocated to districts as per their demand and proposals. Field functionaries highlighted that the procurement of funds at district level needs streamlining. They further suggested that allocating funds directly to DSCs may allow flexibility in formulating interventions at local level. Other local level funding avenues such as area development funds, CSR funds from local industries, civil society organisations for skill development projects may also be explored.
Field functionaries pointed out that unambiguous plan of action and mandate will result in better outcomes. Central and state skill development schemes should define the role of DSC in scheme implementation. Also, SSDMs should regularly communicate with DSC members for offering handholding support and guidance on skilling and related issues.
Role of gram panchayats should be strengthened for effective decentralisation. As about 70% of our country’s population resides in rural India, hence it is imperative to include selected gram panchayats for the success of DSDPs. This would help in driving initiatives for employment and entrepreneurship at grassroots level thus contributing in socio-economic development of the local economies.
Integrated programmes for developing capacity and awareness of all DSC stakeholders are pertinent to keep them abreast with latest developments in the skilling ecosystem. This would aid not only in informed decision-making but also framing and implementing skilling initiatives in an effective manner. Knowledge regarding support agencies, local level avenues for CSR funds and civil society organisations supporting skilling initiatives can be instrumental in fostering industry-led partnerships at local level.
Discussion and knowledge sharing session may be organised along with SSDMs on skill gaps analysis methodology, skills in emerging technologies, skilling schemes, best practices. Field functionaries suggested that sessions may be organised between districts for sharing success stories, challenges and experiences.
Given the multiplicity of departments implementing schemes in a district, a hands on knowledge of skilling programmes being implemented in district, number of candidates being trained, courses offered, active training providers available, NSQF approved courses would support in converging the skill activities and setting need-based targets, checking duplication, monitoring and evaluation.
Capacity building of DSC members in existing skill data platforms and tools such as Skill India Portal, MIS of central skill training schemes, ASEEM portal, National Qualification Register (NQR) and so on can be an effective step in this direction. Robust links should also be established between DSC and district employment exchanges to enable placement and apprenticeship opportunities for skilled candidates through employers registered with the exchange.
Skill development programmes in India are heterogeneous in nature, indicating towards an urgent need for structured interventions across administrative departments under the District Skill Committee. Given informal nature of workforce today, access to skill development, livelihood opportunities, financial linkages, education are an important safety net which can be offered through concerted and convergence efforts of various departments at district level. Thus, the District Skill Committee is a potential platform for not only strengthening skill ecosystem and increasing overall employment generation but also overall uplift of the unorganised workforce.
Dr. K. Rajeswara Rao, Special Secretary, NITI Aayog, and Dr. Gagan Preet Kaur, Consultant Grade II, Skill Development and Employment, Niti Aayog. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent the stand of this publication.