National

Manufacturing Jobs Are Going To Incr­ease: Secretary, Skill Development Ministry

Ministry of Skill Develop­ment and Entrep­reneurship’s Secretary Rajesh Aggarwal speaks to Outlook about the social challenges in implementing vocational courses, women unemployment and the ministry’s plans for Agniveers.

Manufacturing Jobs Are Going To Incr­ease: Secretary, Skill Development Ministry
info_icon

Linkages between education and industry continue to be weak as the country needs an estimated 187 million new jobs. Outlook’s Ashutosh Bhardwaj spoke to Ministry of Skill Develop­ment and Entrep­reneurship’s Secretary Rajesh Aggarwal about the social challenges in implementing vocational courses, women unemployment and the ministry’s plans for Agniveers. Edited excerpts...

Among the first steps of the Modi government was to set up this ministry in 2014. How has been its journey?

A few thousand years ago, students in India rec­eived both education and various skills simultaneously. We were very good in fields like met­allurgy. We maintained this position till industrialisation took place in Europe and we started lagging beh­ind. Indian manufacturing went down systematically during British rule. In the 1950s, the country made a conscious decision that we needed engineers (IITs) and technicians (ITIs) because we foc­used on manufacturing. The situation changed in the 1990s with the IT and banking boom. The government set up the National Skill Developm­ent Corporation in 2008 to focus on other sectors. In 2014-15, we had some 12,000-13,000 ITIs, besi­des different sectors having their own mechanism for skill development. The skill ministry was created in 2015 to bring these scattered attempts together. The ITI component of this ministry came from the labour ministry, the NSDC was shifted from the finance ministry. Till now, we’re trying to ens­ure the convergence of various schemes. We see a spike in manufacturing jobs in the next five years. 

Make In India was supposed to provide employment to 100 million people in the manufacturing sector by 2022. But the latest Economic Survey says that of the total workforce added in 2019-20, 71 per cent went to agriculture. Are we witnessing a shift back to agriculture?

We do see manufacturing jobs are going to incr­ease. There are more apprenticeships in manufacturing jobs now. A lot of jobs are being added in the automotive sector. Production of vehicles has increased. There is an uptake in the steel sector. Our ministry deals with 3-4 kinds of programmes. One is ITI. Around 14-15 lakh students clear it every year. Around 40 per cent go for formal jobs, 40 per cent take self-employment, like welding, plumbing and air-conditioning, and 20 per cent go for higher studies. Besides, some 4-5 lakh students and even middle-aged people join the Jan Shik­shan Sansthan, which are informal skill centres near urban slums or in rural areas. Here, 85 per cent participants are women, either teenagers or 35-40-year old married women. If a 40-year-old woman is earning Rs 4,000 at home, that can be extremely liberating for her. Signi­ficantly, 10-15 per cent of them soon expand the­ir business, even hire staff.

Who are the cooks across the world? Women. But you find male chefs in five-star hotels. In sewing and tailoring, masterjis are men, even for women’s clothes. One of the goals was that schools will integrate skill development with formal education from Class IX. It has not yet happened.

It’s an important issue. School students must learn some hands-on skills. The Centre spends a lot of money under the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan and runs around 30-40 courses. Unfortunately, it is treated more as a hobby than as a serious subject. The new education policy tries to operationalise it. If Class X or XI students want to learn an electrical course, or an art student wants to learn cooking or fashion along with English and history, it should have the same respect as other subjects.

For the first time, the education minister is also the skill development minister. What change has it brought?

It has brought an incredible difference. Three secretaries—higher education, school education and skill development—and heads of several other institutions like UGC, AICTE, NCERT, CBSE, IGNOU, meet at least once every week to ensure the integration of education and skills.

The NEP underlines 10 bagless days for Class VI-VIII when students are exposed to the world. They can be taken to a nearby dairy or a factory, a museum, jungle trail, or even Big Bazaar. Some universities now offer courses, where you can become a museum curator or a tour guide, or even work at a Hero Honda workshop. The UGC framework allows skill frameworks to be embedded into the curriculum. There are institutes that offer BVoc (Bachelor of Vocation).

info_icon
Wheels of progress Women learning to operate earthmovers during a training course under the Skill India Mission

There is a social and institutional resistance against vocational training, and preference for conventional courses.

It’s a big issue in India. In the US, a plumber and a bank employee have the same social respect. In India, an air-conditioner mechanic may earn Rs 40,000 per month as against a data entry operator who earns Rs 12,000, but this person will have more social respectability.
As the collector of Akola 25 years ago, I visited an agriculture university and found a visiting Israeli professor repairing a tractor that had broken down, whereas Indian students and teachers were standing around him. Why do our agriculture students believe that they only do research and not fix the tractor?

The pandemic made us undertake several things on our own. But has it made us respect the vocational? PM Modi has suggested making vocational aspirational. We need to ensure that vocational skills are not looked down upon. It is as important to society as a scientist or a teacher or banker.

In India, an air-conditioner mechanic may earn Rs 40,000 per month as against a data entry operator who earns Rs 12,000, but this person will have more respectability.

Women, Adivasis and lower castes face the maximum brunt of unemployment.

Unfortunately, many of our vocational skills were associated with caste. Caste lines blurred in some jobs after Independence, but people only from lower income groups are opting for such jobs. Certain jobs are still reserved for men. Recently, 23 girls at a Punjab institute have become drivers of earthmoving vehicles. But glass ceilings are still not broken.

I joined Delhi-IIT in computer science in 1983. There was only one girl in my batch. My daughter joined Delhi College of Engineering 27 years later in Computer Science, she was the only girl in her batch. Our girls beat boys till Class XII, but after that they mostly opt for teaching and medical, and not engineering. Who are the cooks across the world? Women. But you find male chefs in five-star hotels. In sewing and tailoring, masterjis are men, even for women’s clothes. These are glass ceilings. We have 55 per cent girls in PMKVY, and 85 per cent girls in Jan Shikshan Sansthan but only around 15 per cent in ITIs.

Advertisement

Your ministry’s 2015 policy document said that 109.73 million skilled manpower would be required across the country by 2022. What is the actual addition?

How does one define skilled manpower? Does it mean a formal certificate? Or a BSc or BA Economics degree? A UN report said 21 per cent of the Indian population is now sk­illed. But India also has a lot of people working in the informal sector. The Government of India has skilled about 6.5 crore people in these years. The private sector also does a lot of skilling, which is difficult to quantify. We are trying to introduce projects like carpet making in villages so that youth remain in villages and increase the local GDP. We have lakhs of kids in India doing offshore jobs in animation graphics. The special effects of Avatar 2, which is releasing in December, were done in India. We are now world-class in animation, and our kids are doing it from Noida and Chennai.  Industry connect is imp­ortant for both education and skills. Acad­emia, industry and government need to work tog­ether to address productivity and unemployment.  

Advertisement

Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has announced support for the Agnipath scheme.

We are working at several levels—training before the tenure of Agniveers begins, certification during their tenure and skill training after their exit. We will teach them skills before they join so that they enter the forces better equipped. During the four years, we will try to ensure a Class XII certificate for someone who is Class X, and graduation for those who were Class XII. We will also undertake bridge courses for those who are about to exit. We are working with all the three forces. 

(This appeared in the print edition as "‘Avatar 2 Special Effects Were Done in India’")

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement