Skills development is recognized as a major priority in India with approximately 10-12 million labour force entrants every year. Lack of skills development is regarded as a main impediment in sustaining the high growth of Indian industry. For the majority of the workforce, low education and skills levels severely limit chances of gainful employment – be it paid employment or to start income-generating activities. Access to formal training for those with limited education has been restrictive. Even when people are able to access education and training opportunities, the quality and relevance of the skills obtained are often a challenge and many young people struggle to find employment or the right employment as a result. Skills mismatch and limited training opportunities are common problems. Additionally, there are many skilled artisans/craft persons but their skills or levels of competency are often not formally recognized (certified). Those skilled crafts/persons are reported to be on a decline and call for interventions to retain them.
Skills development has always been an important task of the Government of India (GOI) as also indicated in the 11th National Five Year Plan (2007-12). There is now, however, an unprecedented momentum to push this agenda more aggressively and seriously. The sense of urgency is felt in the emphasis given on skills development from the Prime Minister to senior Government officials/respective Ministries as well as industry and workers representatives.
The GOI has launched the Skills Development Initiative (SDI) to train 1 million persons on demand-driven vocational skills over the next 5 years and 1 million each year after that to support skills training, certification and upgrading in the unorganized sector. The approach is the implementation of Modular Employable Skills (MES) training implemented by Ministry of Labour and Employment/Directorate-General of Employment and Training, which offers flexibility to those who have limited education and cannot afford to be away from employment for long periods of time.
The ILO is partnering with MoLE and other partners to support the operationalization of the SDI by designing and undertaking a pilot programme focussing on 3 selected clusters. In particular, the ILO is providing technical support towards the consolidation of the SDI’s implementation framework and methodologies. The selected clusters are: Domestic Work (Delhi); Brassware (Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh) and Glassware (Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh). An important criteria in selecting these clusters was an ILO operational base so that the programme could build on what exists and promote the convergence of various initiatives made by ILO, MOLE and other partners in the area. The programmes aim to develop a model for addressing skills challenges in the informal economy by making skill acquisition more visible, structured and formally recognized.
The ILO/MOLE joint programme is a part of the broad framework of ILO’s support on skills development, contributing to the implementation of the Decent Work Country Programme in India. The SDI for Clusters Programme complements, among other activities, the ILO’s partnership on the formulation and adoption of the National Skills Policy with a participatory multistakeholder approach, various national initiatives for reducing skills mismatch, improving the quality assurance of VET institutions and certification processes. The Programme also compliments ILO’s integrated approaches to cluster development in India.