India is all set to become the world’s most populous country as early as next year, but what’s been the envy of the world is India’s vast and burgeoning population in the 25-40-year age group that is available for highly productive economic activities. However, this demographic dividend can only be leveraged if this segment is skilled well.
Only when the young population secures productive employment can it lead to better incomes and spending capacities, improved living and lifestyles that benefit society and the economy. Thankfully, everyone knows what should be done: On the one hand, we should be promoting industries and businesses that can generate sustainable and gainful employment on a large scale; on the other hand, we need to invest in the skill development of people to make them productively employable.
Skilling enables inclusivity as it empowers an individual irrespective of artificial barriers. This further empowers one to be self-reliant, confident and optimistic. Adequate skill sets can lead to productive employability, which helps secure good earning and spending capacities. This creates a virtuous cycle that strengthens the economy by making it robust and competitive, especially regarding the workforce.
However, skilling faces broadly two different sets of challenges: skill gap and training gap. The former is about the relevance of training content (what skills are – and will be – in demand) from the perspective of fast-changing job markets and reaching the training to the target population.
The pandemic enhanced the use of technology. There are shifts in job market scenarios, and globalisation has impacted the skill sets needed. According to The Future of Jobs Report 2020 of the World Economic Forum, globally, about 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines in about 26 economies.
In this context, we need to assess the skills required for fast-emerging sectors like e-commerce, smart logistics, specialised medical care, AI, information security, and social and digital marketing. We should focus on new generation skill sets required for these emerging and futuristic sectors. In general, the current job market scenarios demand the inclusion of socio-emotional intelligence and IT skills in addition to domain-specific ones.
The practical idea is to take a location-centric approach to skill building, wherein the focus falls on skills related to jobs available at particular locations. The focus must also be on providing entrepreneurship skills that can convert job seekers into creators. Entrepreneurship stems from having specific skill sets combined with passion. It also enables overall development because entrepreneurs approach their set-up from planning to implementation.
How to reach?
As we discuss the aspect of the training gap, we must first segment the target population. One way is to group them into job seekers, who need training either in domain or employability skills or both; employed/self-employed with skills gaps; and finally, those who are gainfully employed but at risk of losing their jobs for want of reskilling and upskilling.
Proactively, we must introduce vocational training in schools, giving students the necessary industry exposure and skills for career path crafting. Teaching STEM in the school curriculum and helping students gain career skills is essential. Today, most skilling centres are far away from the places of residence for girl students to make use of them. We need to address their unique needs and increase their participation in employment.
To conclude, skilling is a vital tool we have to use in our demographic dividend. Skilling enables inclusivity and is at the heart of empowering the working-age population to be self-reliant, confident and optimistic – thus creating a virtuous cycle of economic growth, employment, savings and investment.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Mr Sumanta Kar is the Secretary-General of SOS Children’s Villages of India (SOS CVI), one of India’s best childcare NGOs and the largest self-implementing agency providing end-to-end Group Foster Care for children without parental care. Mr Kar has over 30 years of experience in the field of alternative care. He joined SOS CVI in 1989 as a youth co-worker. Mr Kar has conceptualized and implemented several development projects at SOSCVI. He led SOSCVI’s tsunami operation in the southern states of India between 2004-2007 – it was the largest-ever emergency programme undertaken by the NGO so far.
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The CSR Journal Team