India’s growing need for skilled workers should be addressed

Striking a balance: Richa Bajpai and Abhishek Humbad(centre), the founders of NextGen. Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Educationalists should develop models where credits can be transferred to mainstream degrees. Portability of the credits is crucial as the knowledge economy demands continuous upgrading and recognition of skills to remain competitive 

Expert View | Ajay Kela.

In the area of so-called unskilled jobs—such as gardening, landscaping and painting—it is easy to forget that each of those tasks calls for an understanding of materials, use of appropriate tools, and even customer interaction essentials. A painter, for example, would need to apply not just paint but perhaps varnish, wallpaper and wall fabrics. He would need to understand the difference between interior painting and exterior painting; how to remove stains; preparation prior to the application of paint; and above all, how to interact with a customer. If you have used a painter who has botched up your job, you may especially understand and value the idea of skills training. There really is hardly anything called an unskilled job. It is only the degree of required skill that differs.

In an increasing knowledge economy, there is a growing need for skilled workers—from bricklayers to masons, roofers, water proofers, pastry chefs, auto mechanics and firefighters, India needs tens of millions of skilled workers to sustain economic growth, meet demand and fulfil human potential.

India has a higher education gross enrolment ratio of only 12.4%. The remaining 87.6% drop out at various points in school. Only 2.5 million out of a total of seven million that reach class XII go on to a university. The reasons for dropping out are varied. Issues of accessibility, affordability and employability prevent many students from pursuing higher education. Can this immense workforce that drops out be channelled to bridge the national skills gap?

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