Author Archives: adbskillsdevelopment

YOUTH SKILLS AND JOBS: Contribution of Apprenticeships

This is the second of a five-part article series by Dr David Smawfield, an international expert on technical and vocational education and training, exploring different dimensions of youth skills development for jobs and employability. This series leads to a discourse at the ADB International Skills Development Forum in Manila from 10-12 December 2013. Edited, Shanti Jagannathan, ADB. 

The main strengths of apprenticeships in skills development are that they reinforce the demand side in skills utilization by employers on the one hand and enable apprentices to apply skills learned in the workplace immediately without much time and transmission loss. However, in developing economies formal apprenticeships through formal technical and vocational education and training (TVET) are available only for a small minority of young people.

The majority of youth in developing countries work in the informal economy and it is thus informal apprenticeships that provide the largest and in some cases only advancement opportunity for young people. The informal apprenticeship system is inherently weaker in terms of quality and consistency of approach and does not provide much scope for monitoring and regulation compared to its formal counterpart. Therefore, there is much to be done to strengthen the apprenticeships regime for informal sector occupations. An ILO Report on The Youth Unemployment Crisis has prioritised the following for system improvement:

  • complement learning at the workplace with      more structured institutional learning;
  • upgrade the skills of master crafts      persons, e.g. by introducing modern technology and upgrading pedagogical      skills;
  • involve business associations and labour      organizations, especially those representing the informal economy;
  • introduce standardized contracts and      certification;
  • include literacy/numeracy training and      livelihoods skills; and
  • strengthen community involvement to open      more occupations for young women.

The ILO publication Upgrading Informal Apprenticeship: A Resource Guide for Africa advocates efforts to build bridges between informal and formal apprenticeship modalities. Examples of strategies identified for consideration (referenced to Africa, but arguably with wider relevance) include: promoting inclusion of informal apprenticeship in national training systems; devising skills development strategies inclusive of informal apprenticeship; improving recognition by involving other reliable institutions; by providing finance; and through introducing skills assessment of apprentices. The last mentioned has particular potential, particularly where competency based approaches are used. Apprentices can submit themselves for testing at formal testing centres. Provided competences can be demonstrated, it should not matter where or how these were attained: formally or informally. This is an approach adopted on a pilot basis by the EC funded ‘Labour Market Information Project’ in Vietnam. Pilot centres have been set up in formal training institutions where anyone can go for testing of their competences in welding.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, developed economies found that apprenticeships can be a powerful way to tackle youth unemployment and such programs have been given new impetus and emphasis.  A 2013 international study on good practice principles in apprenticeship systems compared and contrasted apprenticeship systems in 11 countries and has suggested that governments may consider  the promotion of the ‘brand’ of apprenticeship, particularly in countries where the status of apprenticeships is low. Measures such as promotion of apprenticeships as a valued school-leaving pathway, awareness building of secondary school and careers staff about apprenticeships, making apprenticeships more attractive through providing pathways to higher level qualifications, and encouragement to recognize apprentice qualifications for recruitment to jobs and/or reward with higher pay can contribute positively.

YOUTH SKILLS AND JOBS: Entrepreneurship Training and Second Chance Approaches

This is the first of a five-part article series by Dr David Smawfield, an international expert on technical and vocational education and training, exploring different dimensions of youth skills development for jobs and employability. This discourse leads to the ADB International Skills Development Forum in Manila from 10-12 December 2013. Shanti Jagannathan, ADB.

Entrepreneurship training and second chance approaches for early school leavers are valuable complements to formal education and technical and vocational education and training. Policy makers in developing Asia would do well to get the context and strategies right for such interventions and allocate adequate resources. However, it is important to acknowledge that they cannot substitute mainstream education and training.

The main rationale behind entrepreneurship training is to empower young people to become entrepreneurs, to take control of their own livelihoods and to offer an economic lifeline for those who work for self-betterment.  The 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitoring Report on “The State of Global Youth Entrepreneurship” sheds some unprecedented light on youth entrepreneurship, especially with regard to aspirations, attitudes and activities.  It says ‘young entrepreneurs are more confident than older entrepreneurs about creating jobs over the next five years in all regions except sub-Saharan Africa’. However, only 17% of Asia Pacific would be considered potential entrepreneurs, compared to 60% in Sub Saharan Africa.  But, youth in Asia Pacific are most likely to make use of an on-line trading environment whereas youth in Sub-Saharan Africa are least likely.

Barriers identified by young people to becoming entrepreneurs include lack of access to finance, appropriate skills, infrastructure, adequate support structures and a mentorship. The report has found entrepreneurship education at primary and secondary school levels across the globe almost universally ‘poor’.

There is little systematic impact evaluation of entrepreneurship training and educational support. The 2010 Global Entrepreneurship Monitoring “Special Report on Education and Training” finds that entrepreneurship training appears to have the greatest effect on early-stage entrepreneurial activity in countries with favorable institutional contexts and the impact of entrepreneurial training is related to the country’s level of economic development.

The importance of tailoring interventions to the context is elaborated further in the 2013 Overseas Development Institute Report – Youth Entrepreneurship, a Contexts Framework which outlines that diagnosing the context of the external environment, whether it is factor driven, efficiency driven, innovation driven or has conflict, post conflict or peaceful setting or is a urban or rural environment is as important as tailoring the intervention to the beneficiary.

Second Chance Approaches

While the promotion of entrepreneurship among youth including through education and training, has many positive dimensions, it is important to acknowledge that they may not completely transform the problem of mass youth unemployment. Strengthening basic and foundational skills are critical for success in the work place.

In developing countries, there are large numbers of youth who have failed to complete a full cycle of basic education. The  2012 UNESCO Global Monitoring Report – Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work estimated that 200 million 15- to 24-year-olds in low and middle income countries have not completed primary school, let alone secondary education. It could be argued that the quality of schooling on offer in many instances is of such low quality that schooling is failing the learner, rather than that the learner failing in school. Many young people with high levels of intrinsic ability have not realised their potential. Second chance initiatives can be powerful means of unlocking that potential.

The 2013 OECD Action Plan for Youth has stressed that attaining a threshold level of foundation skills is essential for youth to have reasonable career prospects and that it is very important that those who have dropped out of school have some ways to return. The 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report also recommends that governments should make second chance education a policy priority to reduce the number of disadvantaged youth without foundational skills and set aside adequate funds for second chance education in the country’s strategic plans.  A crucial part of any second chance strategy should be recognition and validation of relevant competencies that learners may have acquired outside of the education system. This is for both purposes of entry to programmes of study and entry to work.

Countries in the European Union and OECD have put in place robust second chance education programs that developing countries in Asia can learn from.  This defies the misconception that second chance education is only important for developing countries.  There is a lot of interest, experience and expertise in second chance education and training among more advanced nations.  The 2012 report on International Approaches to 2nd Chance Education examined models in USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany and France, together with reference to practice elsewhere in Europe and the Nordic countries.  It offers a comprehensive list of successful characteristics of second chance programmes. It highlights that the most effective interventions combine life skills, basic education training and work placements or apprenticeships and stresses the importance of transferable skills.

Related articles

Women, Vocational Education and Technical Jobs, Shanti Jagannathan

For those of us working in the education sector, gender equality is a critical development outcome we want to see.  Several years of advocacy has seen gender parity being achieved in elementary and even secondary school enrolments. However, from thereon, things do not look so rosy in terms of large gender gaps. At a recent workshop, I argued that gender equality in secondary education is critical to gender equality in tertiary education, labor markets and in societies. Typically, in most developing countries, despite substantial progress in getting girls into school, there is still a huge distance to be covered in ensuring that girls complete the full secondary cycle. According to the Global Partnership for Education, one extra year of secondary raises women’s earnings by 15-25%; 1% increase of girls’ secondary education increases per capita GDP by 0.3%.  PLAN International has estimated that some countries lose more than $ 1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same extent as boys.  Gender equality in secondary education is a crucial base for greater economic empowerment, more jobs, higher productivity as well as stronger, better and fairer growth. Gender equality at secondary stage also has an array of social returns – delay in marriage, better health, more investments in the education and health of children and promotion of rights of women and girls.

Inequalities and vulnerabilities that women face in the labor market can be traced back to their education and skills development. Women do not do as well as men in terms of access to technical and vocational education and training. Even when they do, their choice of disciplines is vastly different from that of men.  While men may go for mechanical, welding, printing, automotive, electronics, computers and so on, women go for training in culinary, housekeeping, front office, food and beverage and similar occupations.  This comes about from a complex web of social, cultural and economic factors. There are well-entrenched cultural expectations of the roles women ought to play and sex-stereotyping of occupations that lead to such differences. But it is by breaking through such barriers can we ensure equal opportunities to women in the labor market. Women are often concentrated in unskilled and semi-skilled and low-paying occupations. In South Asia, as per ILO, 84% of women are in vulnerable employment.

Evidence on average appears to indicate that boys perform better than girls in maths while girls perform better in reading.  This phenomenon is true even in OECD countries.  A recent study by McKinsey points out the US scores last of 9 countries surveyed where universities are most likely to attract high-flying women to the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Just 4 percent of US women identified as high performers study STEM subjects, compared to 57% in India, 37% in Morocco and 25% in Turkey. We need to help girls and parents overcome cultural and social barriers that contribute to gender stereotyping in occupations. This requires interventions to adjust curricula and teaching materials to portray women through powerful role models. Someone at the workshop asked me whether it is a good thing to lay emphasis on recruiting female teachers.  I believe it is, as there is evidence of its positive influence on girls completing secondary schooling.

But there is more to female employment in male dominated occupations than just school education. There is need for increasing access to technical training for women in high growth and modern economy occupations. A recent paper in the International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology points out women could be trapped in dead-end, low paying and low-skills jobs in what would be deemed an advanced occupation such as ICT. Similarly, even in low-end occupations such as construction work, women could use skills development to improve their position in the workplace.  I heard the inspirational story of the Karmika School for Construction Workers established by the well-known Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).  After training in Karmika school, women reported greater confidence in going to work, better negotiation with contractors and less verbal and sexual abuse (I did not hear better wages though!).  Even construction giants such as Larsen and Toubro found it difficult to create good working conditions for women in their sites with washrooms, let alone better wages. Yet millions of women continue to be employed in the construction industry as a whole. There can be out-of-the-box approaches. For instance, a residential school for girls in a remote tribal district in India found that training girls in competitive sports had an unexpected educational outcome – of making them want to finish middle school and enroll for secondary school. This was a result of a great boost in self-confidence that playing competitive sports instilled in the girls!

However, we need to think of skills ++ if gender bias is to be tackled – advocacy at the work place, social protection, and career counselling.

Watch this ADB video on girls and technical and vocational education and training.

Higher Education Rankings: Rural is off the rankings radar, Mukti Misra

THE Mukti photo
Amid all the attention that university rankings attract, their shortcomings are often overlooked. Not only are league tables of institutions based on indicators that take no account of the social and public-good aspects of education, they also perpetuate a global bias. Consider the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Its key assessments look at an institution’s teaching, international outlook, industry income, research output and volume of citations. Such parameters skew the rankings towards universities in the most developed countries.

The fundamental job of a university is teaching and learning. But must every institution focus on research to enhance its teaching and learning experience? Would it not be useful and important for at least some universities to produce “job-ready individuals” rather than “think-ready individuals”, or to produce some combination of “action leaders” and “thought leaders”?

India is a country of countries: each state is linguistically and culturally distinct. National institutions such as the University of Delhi and the Indian Institutes of Technology have students from almost all states, which means that their multiculturalism is on a par with that of leading global universities. Nevertheless, Indian institutions score negligible points on the international outlook parameter.

Rankings also fail to capture the high-impact and socially relevant work that is being done in India’s regional and community-oriented institutions to offer inclusive education and bridge tremendous social gaps by bringing together students from vastly different communities who otherwise could not afford higher education. At top-ranked universities, the cohort is much more homogeneous: students are typically all from the global upper strata.

Centurion University of Technology and Management, in the eastern state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), is an example of this wider university project. Here, school dropouts, vocational trainees, graduate engineers and PhD students all live and dine together; they use the same labs and play on the same sports teams. By fostering a truly inclusive experience, Centurion allows education to be the public good it should be.

Rankings distort public perceptions of the services delivered by a university. Thus many big companies donate to top-ranked universities to signal their own elite nature instead of helping institutions that serve a local community or region.

Despite its lack of financial support or rankings success, Centurion is determined to generate economic value for its region. Through relevant, appropriate education, employability training and industry ties, it strives each year to help 15,000 young people from marginalised communities into work, with a goal of 100,000 by 2022. Centurion has also created many social entrepreneurship initiatives. One, Gram Tarang Inclusive Development Services, has brought banking and financial services to 4 million of some of the most remote households in rural India.

In reflecting on one component of rankings success – citations – it strikes me that researchers worldwide should be citing Centurion’s work, rather than Centurion’s scholars citing other researchers. Alas, this does not happen; rankings continue to neglect real-world impact.

As a young institution, we are still redefining our community impact through education and refining how to maximise it. All we can hope is that the model for ranking higher education institutions continues to evolve with a similar sense of integrity. Institutions making a real difference to the problems of remote and rural regions must be acknowledged, even if they are not ranked. The parties involved in university rankings have organisational, social and individual responsibility for showcasing such invisible, unsung and voiceless institutes.

Mukti Mishra is president of Centurion University of Technology and Management, India.
Originally published at:

Mobile Telephony Revolution: Impact on Education and Skills Development, Shanti Jagannathan

Digital and wireless technologies have exploded in recent times. Mobile technology in particular has spurred a two-part revolution: it has jumped and skipped technology cycles to reach last mile customers (in 2014, mobile devices will exceed world population) and it has opened up completely new horizons through mobile applications. From a device for mainly voice communication, the mobile is now ubiquitous not only in presence but also in the growing number of functions it can support – banking, commerce, music, movies, games, entertainment, flight tickets, location services, education, health care, social services delivery, and so on. The power of the handheld device has increased manifold. In 2012, global mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of global Internet traffic in 2000. The sale of smartphones outstripped the sale of PCs in 2012 and in many developing countries the majority of people are accessing the internet through mobile phones rather than a PC. The number of mobile-only internet users is projected to reach 788 million, half of them expected to be in Asia Pacific.

The mobile thus offers unprecedented opportunities to reach education and training to millions. It can bridge the digital divide by bringing high quality resources down to the most basic school. In the Philippines, the Text2Teach project by Nokia, Globe Telecom, the Department of Education, Pearson Foundation and Ayala Foundation provides educational videos on math, science, English and values to teachers in public schools that download on to TVs. In Pakistan, a Mobile Literacy Project by UNESCO sent text messages to girl students asking questions on a previous face-to-face literacy program. This type of mobile coaching increased the percentage of girls earning an ‘A’ grade in a follow-up examination from 28% to 60%. A CyberSmart project in Senegal undertook teacher professional development by sending a ‘challenge of the week’ by text to teachers. This helped to keep teachers in a professional development loop. In the Solomon Islands, in-service training support has been provided through closed mobile user groups. Bangladesh’s English in Action initiative aims to raise the population’s English language skills through the use of mobiles by 2017.Educational games are fast breaking into traditional bastions of education. In the US, educational games for the mobile are already outselling those for PCs.

These are only a few of the examples. New tools are helping to deliver e-learning courses in a variety of mobile operating systems and mobile devices in addition to PCs: course offerings range from language courses to finance, MBA and creative disciplines. Universities have started courses on developing applications for the mobile!

However, an even more revolutionary aspect of the mobile for education is that it can re-define the very parameters of education and training. It can promote a shift toward self-directed learning, collaborative and peer-group based learning. These are particularly valuable in the contemporary work place where training that takes people away from work, whether it is teachers in classrooms or workers in factories or businesses is considered a loss of productivity. Mobiles can provide ‘performance support’ at the work place, to reinforce impact of traditional training.

If conceptualized well, mobile learning can provide attention-grabbing audio and video materials, practice lessons, quizzes and other interactive materials to reinforce quality of learning and help students to meet learning standards at their own pace and at their own convenience. It can provide digital versions of textbooks, reading materials and other information that is available on the go. It can be a tool for on-the-job information, checklists and other resources. Trainers can use it to poll for feedback, to track effectiveness of training at the work place. The mobile is invaluable in carrying market and career information for employment and job changes.

However, it is important to recognize that the mobile cannot totally substitute mainstream education and training or offer quick-fix solutions. But it definitely has great potential to accelerate the pace and depth of spreading education and training and in delivering innovative methods. For widespread benefits to be realized, active policies and strategies need to be in place. Most countries have not actively incorporated mobile learning into their ICT for education policies. UNESCO has argued for explicit policy guidelines for mobile learning. (  Developing countries will do well to harness the power of the mobile juggernaut for education and training.


Can we measure skills for the knowledge economy in Asia-Pacific? By Cristina Martinez-Fernandez, OECD

 The knowledge economy is an slippery concept often associated with higher levels of income, better jobs and better lives. However the pathways to achieve a knowledge economy are not easy and many times lack a clear road map – how can this experience be transferred from higher income countries to lower income countries?  We often imagine ‘knowledge workers’ as those having unique or specific skills and knowledge to offer but what do we know about them? Can we measure skills needs for the kowledge-based economy in order to understand better who these workers are, where they are and what occupations they have? Scarcity of data and lack of standardised direct measures is a great obstacle. However proxies such as the existing demand for skills by occupation provide interesting results.

                  Occupational structures show the level of skills a country has. Examining occupational structures by skills levels shows that, generally, the more developed the country is, the more highly skilled occupations are available, compared to developing countries which seem to rely on lower skilled occupations. Higher skilled occupations such as professionals, technicians, associate professionals and clerks are significantly advanced in the developed countries of Australia, Hong Kong, China, New Zealand and Singapore, while other countries such as Cambodia, Pakistan and Viet Nam are struggling to supply these types of skills. Craft/related trades, and plant/machine operators and assemblers are regarded as medium-skille and in this category, operators and assemblers are generally in the manufacturing sector and industrialised countries have more of these jobs. But the craft and trades category includes diverse skill level  workers, and a high share is found not only in Australia but also in low‑skilled countries such as Pakistan and Viet Nam. The high share of low-skilled agricultural and elementary occupations indicates those countries in a state of low-skill equilibrium such as Cambodia, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Viet Nam.

From the occupational analysis we can extract the demand for skills training as derived from the need to align skills supply (from educational levels supply) with demand. The change in shares of occupation shows the direction and the magnitude of the shifts in skills demand. For example, Nepal and Viet Nam have growing demands for craft/trade and production workers. In Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal demand for production workers have increased. On the other hand, demand for agricultural workers and elementary occupations have declined. This shift in demand means that these countries need to train unskilled workers from rural areas to become production workers. In the more industrialised parts of Asia, demands for the medium-skilled occupations (craft/trades and operator/assembler workers) have declined fast in countries including: Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.   Countries in which the shares of professional and technician / associate professional workers has risen  include Hong Kong, China, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, in varying degrees. However, decline in production jobs is not entirely matched by growth of higher skilled jobs. In all countries, the shares of elementary occupations have increased. Mongolia and the Philippines have experienced a reduction of craft / trades and production jobs and an increase of elementary occupations . These countries are faced with upskilling demands for a wide range of their unskilled workforce in order to increase the share of knowledge occupations.

Diverse economic conditions of the countries and the variations on skills demand and supply offer a changing scenario but yet one that can be observed (even if not with a perfect shape) in order to provide evidence for the design of skills development and training programmes and policies in Asia-pacific. In particular, changes in occupational structure need to be monitored more closely to better anticipate skill demands from the different countries.

 Dr Cristina Martinez-Fernandez is a Senior Policy Analyst at the OECD LEED Programme. This piece draws on the OECD report on ‘skills development pathways in Asia’ (Martinez-Fernandez, C. and K. Choi, 2012); report contributing to the OECD Skills Strategy studies.


Skills and Jobs – A Plethora of Reports from 2012, Shanti Jagannathan

This ADB-Springer book  on Skills Development for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Developing Asia-Pacific complemented the plethora of reports that were released in 2012 on Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Skills and Jobs.  Such widespread interest in skills development is a reflection of the prominence that the topic is receiving from policy makers, practitioners and research leaders. On the one hand, skills development priorities are increasingly enshrined into overarching development priorities of countries, say, in the context of the 12th Five Year Plan India, and on the other hand, skills development is considered the vehicle for achieving many positive economic and social outcomes – more and better jobs, inclusive development, industrial diversification, knowledge intensive manufacturing and services, innovation, productivity growth, higher levels of wages and social cohesion. As expectations from skills development grew, the discourse on promising strategies, urgently needed reforms and investments became more and more strident.

This volume explores the agenda for skills development from various angles.  It unpacks a number of thorny issues relating to the link between TVET reform and reforms for employment and employability. While skills development is a crucial priority for jobs, there are a number of other factors that need to be in place for jobs with higher wages and for more sustainable occupations.  With a specific focus on the Asia and Pacific region, the book describes how continued economic growth is predicated upon enhancing the skill base of the work force. It analyzes in particular the role of skills development in workforce development in the context of advanced economies such as Australia as well as poor and developing countries like Bangladesh.  It takes stock of skills development pathways that may be more appropriate or relevant to Asia. The volume analyzes public policy strategies such as vocationalizing education and the challenges of assuring life long learning opportunities. It presents insights into reforms undertaken and required in two largest countries in the world – India and China. The book also dwells extensively into the area of TVET in the context of greening economies.

These are opportune times to advance the dialogue on skills development approaches, priorities and strategies. These were further discussed at the ADB International Skills Forum 2012.

The other reports that were released in 2012 were the UNESCO Global Monitoring Report 2012,  the OECD report on Skills Development Pathways in Asia, 2012, the World Development Report 2013, the ILO World of Work Report 2012  the Mckinsey World at Work report 2012  and the Mckinsey Education to Employment report 2012.

Statutory warning: these constitute over 2500 pages of reading material!

Skill development coming of age in India, Dilip Chenoy, CEO & Managing Director of the National Skill Development Corporation

As 2012 draws to a close, it is a good time to introspect on how far India has progressed on the skills issue.

Admittedly, a number of positive developments have taken place since the start of the year, the most significant of which is a greater realization among many key stakeholders about the key role that skills-related training could play in India being able to leverage its favorable demographics.

The leadership of the Prime Minister’s National Council for Skill Development is enabling coordination and cooperation efforts among stake holders. A national target of skilling 80 million has been set for the next five years.

A lot of effort has gone in to ensure that skilling initiatives – irrespective of whether the delivery was through the government or private mechanisms – became more outcome-focused, with the emphasis on jobs and employability. For example, partner institutions of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), for instance, placed over 70 per cent of their students in decent, well-paying jobs following the completion of the training.

Capacity augmentation received a fillip with skilling centers opened across the length and breadth of the country, including in many remote and far-flung areas that had been largely left untouched in the past. Several Partners of NSDC embarked on the process of setting up large vocational training centers capable of skilling a million-plus people over a 10-year span. Special training programmes were introduced in Jammu & Kashmir and the North-East to ensure that the people living in these parts could obtain the skill sets that would empower them to participate in and contribute to India’s growth.

The Indian Banks’ Association – the nodal association for banks operating in the country – based on discussion with the Office of the Advisor to the Prime Minister’s Council, came up with a model vocational loan scheme to serve as the basis for member banks to introduce vocational loan products in order to ease financial access to skills training centers, particularly for those at the bottom of the pyramid. Many private organizations, including NSDC Partners, also came up with innovative financing schemes with employers, in some cases, promising to reimburse the training costs after the trainees completed a certain minimum period of service.

A pilot project of the National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) – that would ensure a seamless migration from a vocational to a formal education framework – was formally launched in 40 schools in Haryana, with plans to replicate it in other states of India. Four Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) formed by the NSDC are involved with the NVEQF pilot.

For all these positives, though, 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 now lies with the employers to promote the skills cause in their own set-up. 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 Government has introduced attractive fiscal benefits such as permitting a weighted deduction of 150% of expenses (not being expenditure in the nature of cost of any land or building) on expenditure incurred on skill development projects, and also exempting training partners of NSDC as well as some designated private sector skills training providers from service tax.

The Government has provided space for leadership and action by Industry. 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 moving 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.

Stakeholders are looking to Industry leaders to start taking ownership of driving the Sector Skill Councils and the NOS exercise in their respective domains through greater involvement with the SSCs, as without the occupational standards, the accrediting system, and certification in place, skill development would be reduced to just another futile exercise. The more actively we can lead, collaborate and execute, the more chances there would be of India being able to realize its vision of skilling and up skilling 500 million people by 2022.

(The author is CEO & Managing Director of the National Skill Development Corporation, a Public Private Partnership of the Government of India).

Fixing India’s Apprenticeship Regime, Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, Teamlease Services


 ~ Apprenticeships are an important part of most developed skill development regime because they combine ‘learning by doing’ with ‘learning by earning’ ~

Policy makers in India today are facing a peculiar challenge – which sectors will create what kind of jobs in the next 20 years? The answer to this is of course crucial as it will determine the fate of our country. The answer to this question is crucial because educators need to decide what kind of skills and education to impart to young people far ahead of when they hit the labour markets. The answer to this question is also crucial because now in India the notion of district collectors distributing NREGS money as job creators is discredited!

But accepting that most attempts at job forecasting make weather forecasting look like physics is difficult for economists and policy makers who build complex forecasting models. Flawed models – however complex – have dangerous consequences; the physics envy of finance led to huge losses because quantitative models used in calculations like Value at Risk or Credit Default Swaps were precise but incomplete.

A comprehensive and multi-decade review of attempts by many countries including the US, UK, India, Japan, etc. of long-term job forecasting suggests that the accuracy, in hindsight, has been poor. To be fair, just like the higher accuracy of weather forecasting in the very near term (one or two days), these models know where job demand will be in the next one or two years. But this is not enough to craft long term education policy.

India is in skill emergency. Lots of ideas are on the table – in fact they are falling off the table. We need an urgent dose of political courage to resolve regulatory bottlenecks at the intersection of the Ministry of HRD and labour (NVEQF, Sector Skill Councils, etc) and State and Central Governments (Employment Exchanges, Apprenticeships, etc.). We don’t need more money but surgery on how money is spent. Not more cooks in the kitchen but a different recipe. Combining Apprenticeships and NREGS would be a radical innovation at the intersection of education, employability and education. It would co-opt employers in ways that the government has never tried. And it would offer dropouts (50% of the 300 million children enrolled in school won’t finish secondary school) and unemployable graduates (estimated at 58% of the 14 million students in 26,500 institutes of higher education) an alternate pathway to skills and jobs.

India needs a new Apprenticeship regulatory regime that clearly recognizes, 1) apprenticeships are classrooms not employment, 2) stipends are tuition subsidy and not salary, 3) durations for different trades and candidates need to vary from 3 months to 3 years, 4) the partition between the jurisdictions of the Ministry of Labour and HRD is unnecessary because it creates policy orphan like non-engineering graduates and amplifies the apartheid between skills and higher education, 5) we need employer sponsored programs that are allowed to outsource theoretical training, 6) we need educational institute sponsored programs that are allowed to outsource practical training, 7) the current stick of jail is not working and capacity will be higher if employers are volunteers, 8) moving away from the current license raj to nationwide permissions for national employers will increase capacity, 9) removing the size ratios on apprenticeship programs run by employers will accelerate capacity creation because apprenticeships have a lower expansion speed limit than physical classrooms, 10) the most effective labour market subsidy is subsidizing stipends.

These reforms should be designed to counter current opposition. Models that try to predict where jobs will be created in the next few decades have the efficacy of palm reading or astrology – this makes them unreliable input for decisions with long shadows. More than trying to predict the future, we should try architecting our education system to be self-healing in coping with changing employer needs. What better place to start than expanding our formal apprenticeships to 10 million youth?


Vocationalization of Secondary Education at the Crossroads ? Rupert Maclean, the Hong Kong Institute of Education

In 1990, 192 nations of the world, and the education for development community, met in Jomtien, Thailand, and made a commitment to achieving Education for All (EFA) and the eradication of illiteracy.  Although EFA remains elusive, considerable gains have been achieved over the past 22 years with regard to the universalisation of primary education.  Partly as a result of this success, in most developing countries, worldwide, more students are now going onto secondary school in greater numbers than ever before, with secondary education now being regarded in many countries as being part of basic, essential education.

In the past it was widely accepted that secondary schooling was for the few, for a relatively small number and proportion of students who were mainly concerned with receiving an academic-type education, for entry to universities and high status professions.  With an increasing proportion of  relevant age groups now wanting to go onto complete a full cycle of secondary schooling, for its own sake, and not necessarily go onto university,  schools have had to modify their curriculum and entrance procedures to become more comprehensive.  They have done this by providing a wider range of courses, which are both academic and (increasingly) vocational in nature, to accommodate the more diverse study interests and range of capabilities of students. As a result, more emphasis is being placed on economic productivity, with secondary schools increasingly stressing skills development for employability, and preparing students more directly to meet labour force requirements.

This trend, which is referred to as ‘the vocationalisation of education’, often enjoys the support of governments who promote the (generally incorrect) argument that this is an effective way of reducing youth unemployment.  This view is generally incorrect because youth unemployment will only be reduced if there are sufficient jobs to absorb youth who have the specialized skills in demand in the labor market, rather than the general skills most likely provided by vocationalised secondary schools.

There are some, such as Professor Steven Schwartz, Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University in Australia, who recently lamented this trend, and who argues that the programmes offered in many secondary schools are ‘being reduced to mere vocational training’.  Prof Schwartz and his supporters believe that secondary schools should stress a general education and the intellectual development of learners, mainly  through traditional academic subjects. Such critics want to wind-back the clock to a time when secondary schools focused almost exclusively on academic learning.

Others (including myself) disagree and believe it is both desirable and appropriate that secondary schools are more accountable to meeting the economic and labour force needs of society through placing a greater emphasis on skills development for employability.  The pro and anti vocationalisation of secondary education camps are currently locked in a war of words, with secondary education being a cross roads concerning likely future directions.