Sector Skill Councils to deliver industry-led skills plan in India

SkillingIndia on December 24, 2012 Comments in a tête-à-tête with Dilip Chenoy, the CEO & MD of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)… Excerpts of the interview:

It is our belief that the number of people skilled through the NSDC system would rise by March 31, 2013.” – Dilip Chenoy, CEO & MD, NSDC.

SkillingIndia: From the time the Sector Skill Councils were announced, what is your assessment on where have we reached in terms of their formation, roles and their reach?

Dilip Chenoy: The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has received an enthusiastic buy-in from different segments of industry to form Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) in their respective areas of activity, with the SSCs charged with the responsibility of bringing together all stakeholders to achieve the common goal of creating a skilled workforce for the domains they represent.

Till date, the NSDC Board has approved 18 SSC proposals for funding which cater to the requirements of 18 identified high growth sectors ranging all the way from agriculture to construction, and from healthcare and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) to IT/ITeS and retail. A further six SSC proposals are currently undergoing due diligence and an additional eight more proposals are in the pipeline.

The SSCs approved by NSDC are presently in various stages of developing skill competency and occupational standards, as well as in being engaged in standardizing the affiliation and accreditation processes. Many of them are in the process of setting up labor market information systems (LMIS) to assist in the planning and delivery of training, besides identifying skill development needs and preparing a catalogue of skill types. Some are also working on promoting academies of excellence and helping in executing train-the-trainer programs.

Several SSCs are working closely with organizations such as the European Union, International Labour Organization, the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) etc with the objective of introducing international best practices in India. Importantly, four NSDC-funded SSCs – the SSCs for the auto, IT/ITeS, retail and private security – are directly involved with the pilot project of the National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF), as part of which vocational courses in auto, IT/ITeS, retail and private security would be introduced in classes IX to XII across 40 schools in Haryana.

SkillingIndia: Are there any specific issues pertaining to the sector skill councils development?

Dilip Chenoy: The Government has provided space for leadership and action by industry on the skills front. Industry has the unique opportunity to being the voice that would determine how trainings should be conducted, and the standards that should prevail, besides deciding how the assessments and certifications should happen. As part of the National Policy on Skill Development, 2009, industry can do all these things through setting up Sector Skill Councils.

Industry has to collaborate and lead the formation and operationalization of SSCs and move fast on this. The SSCs approved by the NSDC need to accelerate the buy-in from among their own membership for the concept of devising National Occupational Standards (NOS) for the top job roles in their respective domains.

SkillingIndia: What kind of initiatives/collaborations with different stakeholders do you think can further enhance their way forward?

Dilip Chenoy: If industry were to take four simple steps, it would create a sustainable skill development ecosystem:

  • Hire SSC-certified persons;
  • Pay more to certified persons and incentivize the employee to pay for his training, for example, pay one month’s salary to the skill/training institution; and or pay an amount equivalent to the money spent on training to the employee after a specified period with the company;
  • Promote life-long learning and get all employees in the organization certified; and
  • Encourage and incentivize suppliers, contractors and service providers to hire certified persons and make it a condition to partner.

SkillingIndia: Where do you see the sector skill councils that are formed and running in the next five years?

Dilip Chenoy: It is our belief that five years from now, the SSCs that have been approved by the NSDC Board till date would have come up with the competency standards and occupational standards for the top job roles in their respective industries, and also become the assessing and certifying authority of all the skills training activity in their particular domains. They would have set up labor market information systems, promoted academies of excellence and executed train-the-trainer programs. They would also have introduced international best practices in this country.

SkillingIndia: How can the upcoming SSCs benefit from the ones that are already running?

Dilip Chenoy: The upcoming SSCs can try to understand the processes involved in getting a Sector Skill Council functional, including the process followed for getting a buy-in from members on issues like competency and occupational standard and introducing best practices. More importantly, they can take lessons from the SSCs approved earlier on what are the things that don’t work and not repeat the same mistakes.

SkillingIndia: What are the challenges that are emerging due to the lack of any National Occupational Standards for various job roles in different industries for job seekers and the industry?

Dilip Chenoy: The education system and training firms don’t have any standards to ensure that their programmes result in employer-needed competencies among those graduating from their programmes and courses.

SkillingIndia: Could you please elaborate on SSCs correlation with the National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework?

Dilip Chenoy: On September 3, the pilot project of the National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) – that would enable a seamless transition from a vocational to a formal education system – was formally launched in Haryana. NSDC-funded SSCs for the auto, IT/ITeS, retail and private security are directly involved with the NVEQF pilot project.

Significantly, the Government of India Order on the NVEQF has assigned multiple responsibilities to the SSCs/NSDC for ensuring the success of the National Vocational Education Qualification Framework which would eventually cover the whole of India. The NSDC has also been made a member of the NVEQF Steering Committee chaired by the Union HRD Minister.

Under the NVEQF, the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for each job role within the identified skill sectors would be “laid down by the Sector Skill Councils”. The SSCs would be involved in the design of the “competency-based curriculum”.

The NVEQF Order states: “The SSCs would also be responsible for engaging with the Central and State level implementing agencies in developing the curriculum package, engagement and capacity building of vocational teachers, (and) assessment and certification of the skills imparted. A ‘sectoral’ framework will be developed by SSCs to map out existing skills and qualifications held by the current workforce, analyse future skill requirements, training requirements relevant for the sector and the design for clear cut progression pathways and provisions for seamless vertical and horizontal mobility of a student”.

SkillingIndia: What are NSDC’s priorities in the light of the skill development project and the sector skill councils for the next one year?

Dilip Chenoy: It is our belief that the number of people skilled through the NSDC system would rise by March 31, 2013, to meet the target given by the Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development of 400,000 people. It is our expectation that the SSCs approved already would have the NOS in place for 80% of the top job roles in the industries they represent within the next year or so.

SkillingIndia: Would you like to add anything?

Dilip Chenoy: Many of the underlying challenges to the creation of a skills culture in India continue to remain unresolved. Skills still don’t command a premium in India. Deep-rooted misconceptions that skills-related training is only intended for those who could not make it in the formal system have affected enrolments at vocational education facilities with admissions in these centers continuing to be seen by many as a last resort.

Leadership to transform this situation now lies with employers by promoting the skills cause in their own set-ups. Enterprises need to accelerate the practice of hiring skilled and certified employees at all levels and then create an attractive salary differential between skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labor. Leadership is also needed to increase in-service skilling in the manufacturing sector, which continues to be low.

The HR community should reach out more to skill development institutes with their specific requirements of skill sets and help training centers develop the required curriculum. Promoting internships, agreeing to pay placement fees to skilling facilities, refunding training fees to employees who want to pursue skill development programs and supporting participation in SSC initiatives are ways in which the HR fraternity can contribute to the cause of developing a skilled workforce.

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