Mon, 18 Nov, 2019

Catch them young, teach them skilling

Skilling at a young age makes sense, India has now realised the potential benefits of the same but the Government cannot do it alone

Story: Dr | Manasvi | 07th November 2019, 03:19 Hrs

Dr Manasvi M Kamat

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore recently said, “The Indian government’s flagship initiatives like Skill India and Start-Up India are a good beginning to address the needs of employment, but these programmes need to be put together with the education system with more partnerships happening.”

Fore was in Mumbai for the launch of Generation Unlimited or Gen-U, a UNICEF programme aimed at providing education and skill development to the youth in the age group of 10 to 24 years. Ms Fore interestingly remarked that various stakeholders need to come together in the education system to make skilling more effective.

The idea Ms Fore suggests is to catch them young for skilling. To bridge the gaps UNICEF has decided to come up with an ambitious programme of imparting skill training to one million young people between the ages of 10 to 24 in India every month to ensure that the country has every youth in training, education or employment by 2030. Echoing similar sentiments the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani, reiterated that will certainly be a good idea to start from an early age perhaps from age 10 or 12.

The skill-development programme has faced various issues in the country and one of the primary problems has been the late introduction of skilling. While most countries start focusing on vocational education from an early age, India’s skill development starts after school completion. Children who are in primary schools today are likely to work in jobs that do not even exist now.

In this context, Germany has some of the best working models in lowering youth unemployment and in raising high skill levels. Germany’s dual system of the vocational training programme called VET focuses on cooperation between publicly funded schools and the small and medium-sized companies. Trainees in this programme typically spend part of each week at a vocational school and the other part at a company.

While the need for skilling at a young age is well emphasised, the following two reports show that skilling in technology can create an impact. The KPMG report published last year highlights that the number of Indian start-ups increased tenfold to 50,000 between 2008 and 2018. The fact that India added 1,200 new start-ups in 2018 alone means additional 1,200 companies require web-developers, programmers, and technology specialists to handle their business. Similarly, the report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the future of jobs indicates that all of the nine new trades listed that are needed in the future are associated with technology.

As automation increases, WEF estimates 42 per cent tasks will be automated in 2022, a sharp rise from 29 per cent in 2018. The trend indicates that demand for people with computer-related skills will grow, but the question is whether the education system has adapted to this reality. India thus cannot ignore the importance of technology for gainful employment. With software-making skills being taught at the primary middle school level in some countries, India needs to do the same. Skilling young children in vocation-based education in sustainable technologies and computer skills like web designing and coding, which involves creativity, logical thinking and problem solving, could be the solution to prepare students for a job market dominated by electronics, data and computer science.

Our Union Ministry for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has recently signed two agreements referred to as Joint Declaration of Intent (JDoI) with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany, for cooperation in areas including skill development and training and the other with German multinational, the Siemens India unit.

Both collaborations are for vocational training initiated towards sustainable growth of skills. With tie-ups, MSDE will intend to replicate the focus on trainees in India to gain technology skills and help them to get jobs in sustainable sectors such as areas including renewable energy, e-mobility and energy efficiency. 

Also, the $10-million funding commitment from JP Morgan to a new World Bank multi-donor trust fund focused at skilling the youth in India is a good initiative. The investment is part of the commitment to help low and middle-income communities develop new skill sets and the pilot projects will be launched in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Another good initiative is about timely realisation and preparing for requirements of the future digital world. Recognising that the future lies in coding, a Jaipur-based edtech startup ‘Codevidhya’ found a business opportunity by focusing on teaching kids to code right from the year 2016. This ed-tech startup equips students aged five to 16 years with programming skills to find success in the algorithms economy.

The Codevidhya team works with schools in a B2B model. When the school opts for this intervention their annual curriculum in computers is implemented as a complete programme along with main subjects like science and mathematics. The team has set up the curriculum basis guidelines shared by CBSE boards and other educational boards. Teachers are trained and the curriculum is offered with a combination of textbooks, online learning platform, students’ workshops, code challenges, project mentorship, quarterly product implementation, assessments, annual hackathon, and support for participation in various competitions and challenges. Two years down the line, Codevidhya claims to have on board over 25 schools, leading to a growth in revenue from Rs 36 lakh to Rs 1 crore. 

Germany has successfully demonstrated that skilling at a young age makes sense. India has now realised the potential benefits of the same but the Government cannot do it alone. The UNICEF, World Bank, funding institutions, the private sector, NGOs and academia need to collaborate to cooperate. The right linkages need to be created and taken forward with a sense of urgency.

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