Category Archives: skills development

Skills For Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Developing Asia-Pacific : Call to Action by Youth

In the recent ADB International Skills Development Forum 2013, a strong youth contingent was invited for the first time to join deliberations. Over 40 youth with diverse backgrounds came from 10 countries. They enriched discussions by sharing their concerns and viewpoints on skills and jobs and what is required to ensure good jobs. When we challenged them to come up with what they could themselves undertake, the energetic and creative group of youth came up with the following. Well done!                             Shanti Jagannathan

We, the youth participants of the 3rd International Skills Development Forum gathered on 10th-12th December 2013 in Manila, Philippines,

strongly believe that the time has come for the international community to work together to make the world of decent work accessible to all, where every young person can avail equal opportunities.

Youth face clear and distinct issues that impede them from making informed career choices, reaching their full potential, and living a happy and successful life. In the Asia-Pacific region, 6 out of 10 young people have no jobs, are not in school, or are engaged in irregular employment. We, the youth of the region, struggle in an environment that has fostered skills mismatch, urban and rural divide, weak youth entrepreneurship, and unsecure jobs in both the formal and informal sector. If this continues, current and future generations will be confined to a poorer quality of life and remembered as the lost generation

We recognize the impact ICT has on revolutionizing opportunities for youth.

To reverse the current trends, youth must be educated, empowered, and engaged. We commit ourselves to:

  1. Develop and encourage extra-curricular activities and youth-inspired opportunities that enable youth to practice life skills and leadership;
  2. Participate and execute peer-to-peer mentorships for personal growth and career guidance;
  3. Organize youth-friendly job fairs, especially on green and ICT-based jobs;
  4. Patronize and promote youth-led enterprises;
  5. Organize and execute a youth-led dialogue that brings together youth, government and private sector to talk about issues on employment;
  6. Advocate and serve as a resource to the international institutions and labor ministries on the need for a public information dissemination campaign about decent work;

In addition to the specific actionable items that the youth will undertake, we call upon the following stakeholders to seriously consider the following recommendations:

  • We encourage greater and more meaningful collaboration between youth, relevant government ministries, and private sector.
  • We encourage greater collaboration between private sector and education institutions in curriculum-design and career-guidance.
  • We encourage greater emphasis on entrepreneurship in all levels of formal and non-formal education, and making youth-friendly financial resources accessible.
  • We encourage incentives for businesses that promote decent work opportunities for youth.
  • We urge the private sector to stand up and be the face of change in making digital literacy accessible to rural youth.
  • We encourage government and private agencies to include youth advisors in programs and policies that impact youth.

We applaud the Asian Development Bank and Plan International for their continued commitment to inclusive dialogue. We call upon the international community to intensify its commitment to deliver its promise of decent work and equitable opportunities for youth in the Asia-Pacific region.

Youth and Skills Development: 12 Things to Know

This fact sheet is prepared in the lead up to the ADB International Skills Development Forum. Shanti Jagannathan and Benjamin Vergel de Dios

1.         Young people have power to make or break their country’s economy. About 2 million youths are now entering the Bangladesh job market annually but nearly 90% of them end up in poorly paid informal work. Low skills of the workforce is undermining productivity and weighing on attempts to diversify the economy. Source: ADB News: $500 Million Loan Targets Skills-driven Secondary Education for Bangladesh

2.         Investing in girls brings good socio-economic returns. The United Nations estimates that the region loses more than $40 billion per year as a result of gender gaps in education and women’s limited access to employment opportunities.Source: ADB News: Skill Training for Women and Girls the Focus of ADB Seminar

3.         Young people are at the center of India’s inclusive growth strategies. The low employability of India’s work force is affecting the competitiveness of its economy. Of India’s total youth population, 57% suffer from some degree of unemployability.

Source: ADB Project Document: Supporting Human Capital Development in Meghalaya

4.         Youth running out of reasons to smile. Global adult unemployment rate is at 4.5% but global youth unemployment is three times more (12.6%). Youth say they can’t find jobs because they do not have “experience, skills, contacts, awareness of job availability and means to travel to find work”.

Source: GSMA and Alcatel-Lucent Study on Mobile Services for Youth Employment

5.         TVET institutions need new learning paradigms. Time to explore the 70-20-10 formula of learning – 70% on-the-job development and real life experiences, 20 % through coaching and self improvement and 10% through structured instructor-led trainings and e-Learning.

Source: ADB-Springer Book on Skills Development for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Developing Asia-Pacific

6.         Asia-Pacific should not ignore Not in Education, Employment or Training-NEET. Globally, there are 357.7 million youth not in education, employment of training, with 62% in South Asia (101 million) and East Asia and Pacific (119.4 million).

Source: World Economic Forum

7.         You are in trouble if you are a girl, poor and living in a rural area.  Location, gender and wealth disparities affect acquisition of ‘foundation skills’.  Almost all boys and girls from rick households in the Philippines acquire foundation skills but only 56% girls and 35% boys from poor backgrounds do. In Pakistan, almost 50% of rural females will not get any education at all.

Source: EFA Global Monitoring Report 2012 – Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work

8.         Underemployment is as serious as unemployment. In 2010, 536 million working youth in the developing world were underemployed – more than half of them live in South Asia (152 million) and East Asia and the Pacific (150 million). As many as 200 million working youth earn less than US$ 2 a day.

Source: World Economic Forum

9.         Employers say youth are not prepared for the world of work: youth agree but their educators and trainers do not.  Only 42% employers and 45% youth surveyed said youth were not prepared for the world of work, whereas an overwhelming 72% of education and training providers believed they are.

Source:  McKinsey and Co. Education to Employment: Designing System that Works

10.       Every young person deserves a second chance in education. UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report 2012 reveals around 200 million young people need a second chance to acquire the basic literacy and numeracy skills, which are essential to learning further skills for work. Some 91 million of them live in South and West Asia.

Source: EFA Global Monitoring Report 2012 – Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work

11.       Youth entrepreneurship can remedy youth unemployment. OECD says it can be part of the solution. 40% of youth aged 15-24 years and say self-employment is feasible. More males (34%) than females (24%) believe they can make themselves self-employed.

Source: OECD Policy Brief

12.       Youth demand hands-on training and do not get enough. Fifty-eight percent of surveyed youth agreed that “practical, hands-on learning is an effective approach to training”. However, only 24% of academic graduates and 37% vocational graduates said they get this in their respective institutions.

Source: McKinsey and Co. Education to Employment: Designing System that Works

YOUTH SKILLS AND JOBS: The Informal Sector

This is the fourth 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 up to the ADB International Skills Development Forum in Manila from 10-12 December 2013.  Edited, Shanti Jagannathan, ADB.

In developing economies, the informal sector employs a large proportion of the working population often approaching and even exceeding 90% of the economically active work force.    Skills development strategies are often not tailored to the needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who may not have sufficient resources for training. A major tool to increase productivity and competitiveness of SMEs is through appropriate skills development.

The informal sector is mostly made up of micro- and small enterprises. Small businesses find it difficult to release key employees to undertake training away from the job. The opportunity costs for the learner may also be high. Limited cash flow for training is an associated constraint. Workers in SMEs have multiple skilling needs – in some cases, know-how on financial, business and marketing aspects of a trade or enterprise may be just as important, if not more so, than technical training.

A key policy dilemma is where to put the emphasis in the informal sector: training those without employment to help them become economically active; or training those with businesses and employment to be more economically productive. Equity considerations may favour the former. However, anecdotal evidence from programme and project experience suggests the latter can be powerful to increase productivity of enterprises.

With regard to skills upgrading in the informal sector, a number of approaches have been held to show promise:

  • Encouragement of ‘recognition of prior learning and experience’. This allows informal sector workers to gain credence for their experience for further skills upgrading and progression to higher order jobs, including in the formal sector.
  • NGOs and some private sector providers have a good track record at reaching the ‘hardest to reach’ in the informal sector. Policies need to specifically acknowledge and support such training provision and delivery by non-government channels.  Equally, provision of training vouchers for informal sector workers to access formal institutional training must be encouraged.
  • Flexible learning approaches could be great importance for effective training delivery to informal sector workers, such as modular approaches where higher competencies can be built up over a period of time.

A recent World Bank Research Report on Improving Skills Development in the Informal Sector, while focused on Sub-Saharan Africa, has key findings that can also be applicable for Asia. The report stresses that apprenticeships are the most important form of skills development in the informal sector and efforts are needed to improve their efficiency. It is acknowledged that to some extent, skills development in the informal sector remains a remedial activity that compensates for inadequate quality basic and secondary education. Countries need to explicitly incorporate skills development in the informal sector more firmly in the policy agenda.

An OECD report on Skills Development Pathways in Asia also finds that developing countries in Asia commonly face a lack of skills development in SMEs, especially internal training. This phenomenon has not been effectively addressed in donor partnerships either.  The report advocates the development of local skills ecosystems that bind organizations, institutions and firms in a certain local area or labor market in area-based partnerships for training and skills development. There are many advantages in putting more emphasis on devolving more responsibility and resources for partnership development to the local level.

On the one hand, the scale of investments for skills development in the informal sector needs to match the need of the sector. On the other hand, innovative and alternative routes to traditional training are also required.

YOUTH SKILLS AND JOBS: Foundation and Transferable Skills

This is the third 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. Edited, Shanti Jagannathan, ADB.

The 2012 Global Monitoring Report on Education says that: ‘People need foundation skills to stand a chance of getting jobs that pay decent wages and becoming a productive force in the economy’. It argues that these skills are best acquired through formal education and policies and practices should encourage young people to stay longer in formal education. Foundation skills usually refer to language literacy and numeracy.

In developing countries in Asia, the lack of adequate foundation skills makes vocational training less effective. As per UNESCO, in East Asia and the Pacific, over 28 million people aged 15 to 24 have not even completed primary school and need alternative pathways to acquire basic skills for employment. It is well known that South Asia is home to the world’s largest numbers of adult illiterates. When the attainment levels of the work force are below secondary or even primary education, skills development institutions are challenges to remedy the lack of adequate foundation skills. This is not only a matter of concern for developing countries.

A recent report by the Australian Industry Group finds that 93% of surveyed employers identified a wide range of impacts on their businesses from low level literacy and numeracy skills. Raising the levels of workforce foundation skills is identified as an urgent national priority to life the Australian economy’s productivity.

Yet, strengthening foundation skills are not included as an important priority in skills development institutions. This despite findings in skills audits that the technical skill associated with a vocation is rarely more than half of overall skill requirements required: both in terms of effective performance in the work place, and with regard to what employers are looking for when recruiting.

Lack of adequate of foundation skills combined with poor life skills (referred to in a number of ways such as transferable skills, 21st century skills, soft skills – problem solving skills, creativity, work ethics, inter-personal skills and ability to work in teams and so on) further impede skills development on a continuum and at the work place.  Specific examples of the types of attributes in high demand among employers include: the ability to think critically and creatively, process information, make decisions, manage conflict, and work in teams. Furthermore, in many vocational and professional contexts, competences associated with the following are gaining ground in importance – management, leadership, information and digital technology management, negotiation, selling, marketing and public relations.

An Asia Society Report on partnership for global learning suggests that students are not learning 21st century skills because they are not explicitly taught, the traditional method of teaching is not suited for teaching such skills and adequate methods to assess learning of 21st century skills are not universally available.

What are the implications that skills development and training institutions need to consider?

  • The teaching of foundation skills in a remedial context. This can be through separate programs or through opportunities to practice and further develop literacy and numeracy skills that have supposedly been already acquired. This will help to strengthen the uptake of higher order skills development. At the same time, efforts need to be made to strengthen language and mathematics teaching in secondary schools
  • Diversification of content. The explicit inclusion of transferable and life skills in a systematic way to the basket of foundation+ skills would help to maximize returns

  • Use of modern pedagogies.  Emphasis on active learning, cooperative learning and group work, constructivist and communicative approaches are far more conducive to the development of foundation skills than traditional classroom teaching.

  • ncreased use of ICT. At one level, ICT competence is increasingly regarded as a life skill in its own right. In addition, modern and contemporary approaches to training can be facilitated through ICT.  skills can again be developed through two different strategies, neither of which needs to be mutually exclusive. The first option is to offer a separate ICT module as a mandatory part of any more narrowly defined vocational training programme. The second option is to increase the use of ICT as part of the way the vocational content is itself transacted, in order that hands on experience is gained and skills and knowledge to do with ICT are developed.

Winners announced in Plan-Asian Development Bank youth reporter contest

We are pleased to announce the selection of 9 brilliant youths from across the region in Asia who are winners of a Youth Reporters’ Initiative contest we held by Plan International and the Asian Development Bank.

Young people from 9 countries in Asia were invited to showcase their talent and creativity under the theme of “Skills Development and Employment for the iGen”.  The Youth were asked to respond in a creative and original way to the question of what skills and programmes young people need to succeed in finding and keeping a job in the modern world.

They could select any medium to present their stories including an article, a life story, audio or video material, an interview or a drawing. The key was that the submission demonstrated the realities of what it’s like being a young person and the challenges and opportunities of gaining the skills needed for getting a job. We’ll be showcasing the winning entries soon.

Next stop for the winners? The ADB International Skills Development Forum in Manila from 9-12 December 2013. The fantastic 9 will join a number of other youths from the Philippines and get a chance to take part in a dialogue with key regional players.

Congrats to Md S (Bangladesh), Khin S (Cambodia), Pu R (China), Amit K (India), Siti W (Indonesia), Shahid I (Pakistan), W.M.A. D (Sri Lanka), Chakrapan C (Thailand), Ngoc (Vietnam).

Adapted from

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.

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.

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.


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).