The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched by the United Nations in 2016 with a mission to carry forward the global development agenda till 2030 and beyond, emphasize actions for and involvement of younger generations. Because these groups will see through and can suitably contribute to the envisaged sustainable prospects.
This set of 17 interconnected goals with their 169 targets is designed in such a way that youths remain their main stakeholder groups. The fact being young people create the biggest part of the global demography. Now, 43% of the world’s population is of people under the age of twenty-five. And, around 90% of them live in poor and developing countries that are stuffed with threats to sustainable development.
This part of population will obviously live longer, that too with the impact of the decisions and actions taken at present. Participating in the development agenda is the “right” of the young generation as they have greater stake in long-term sustainability. Ignoring the issues and role of the youth in the process of dealing with the issues of sustainability can be a risk. Rather, it should be turned into an opportunity by making them serious partners in the Sustainable Development Goals. And, to realize this opportunity youths should be equipped with skills the modern day requires.
Putting this in the context of India, it is one of the youngest nations of the world as 54% of its population is below 25 years of age, and more than 62% of its population is in the working age group (15-59 years). The average age of population in India is around 29 years, much lower in comparison to developed countries like the US, Japan and European nations. In next 15 years, the labour force in industrialized countries will decline by 4% whereas in India it will increase by more than 30%.
This can be seen as a challenge as a burden as well as an opportunity as “demographic dividend”. In order to avoid that this “demographic dividend” turns a “demographic disaster”, the workforce should be imparted with employable skills and knowledge, as a skilled workforce is vital for socio-economic development. Without exaggeration it can be said that India has the potential to be the skill capital of the globe.
For last several decades India is reeling under the crisis of huge skill gap. Disparity between demand and supply of skilled manpower is a major impediment for national economic growth. Every year more than one crore people are joining the country’s workforce whereas less than 25% of them possess relevant skill set needed for jobs across sectors.
According to a survey, 90% of employment opportunities entail vocational skills, but 90% of youths who come out of school or college hold only bookish knowledge. They are qualified, but not rightly skilled for the job. For a growing economy like India this skill deficit does not augur well. The dream of India becoming a 5 trillion dollar economy in near future will not be possible if human capital is not properly taken care of.
On the brighter side, Government of India has commenced several skilling initiatives under its “Skill India” campaign. Flagship schemes like Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushal Yojana (DDUGKY) are playing a significant part in the skilling efforts. However, the task is gigantic and achievement so far is not so visible. At this juncture a critical re-thinking of the current skilling system and approach is required. Skill development efforts should not be taken in isolation.
Synchronization with other programmes and policies is essential. For example, “Make in India”, another ambitious programme of the Government, can be coordinated with and be boosted by the “Skill India” campaign. Further, several dovetailing and complementary strategies should be considered, though multi-pronged strategies of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) cannot be underrated. Inclusiveness and gender balancing must be maintained consciously in the skill building agenda.
Accessibility of marginalized groups to vocational training needs to be ensured. Following the “catch them young” policy it should be encouraged that young men and women join the skilling bandwagon just after completing formal education. Partnership and collaboration may play a vital role in augmenting the skilling efforts. And, involvement of corporate sector with their CSR initiative is the key for complementing and supplementing government’s action.
Scope of CSR in Skill Development
Given the huge task of achieving the target and maintaining quality and sustainability of the skill development mission being pursued in India, companies of both private and public sector have adequate scope to contribute and make impact through their CSR programme. As it is obvious that industries have a crucial role in impelling lasting economic development of the country, investment by them in skilling the workforce makes a strong business case. This investment creates a win-win situation for industries by developing a vibrant and skilled labour market and serving their social responsibility purpose as well. Also, from the ethical point of view, as businesses use human resource of the country it is expected from them that they develop capacity of that resource in a sustainable manner.
Apart from this, corporate sector has several means and immense potential to influence the skilling ecosystem. Companies have resources, infrastructure, machinery and expertise that can support the endeavour of skill development. They have experienced manpower whose proficiency and knowledge are really needed for this mission. Transfer of skill and knowledge to the next generation can best be performed by the industries. Further, who can understand better the skill gap and need of specific skill set for the industry sector than the companies? They know the changing market needs. They are among the first to identify any sunrise or high-growth sector having the potential to offer jobs. Their temperament for innovation comes in aid in expanding the skilling sphere and adding new avenues to the list of areas of skill development.
Corporate sector can derive several strategic benefits by getting involved in skill building activities. CSR agenda of companies gets realized well as their skill development efforts reach out to the capability-deprived youths and create positive impact sustainably across communities. Availability of skilled manpower makes it easy for companies to increase their efficiency and productivity and to reduce their operational cost. By up-skilling and re-skilling the youths, companies get future-ready.
Corporate sector has adequate scope for involvement and contribution for realizing the SDGs. Therefore, leading agencies and experts working on sustainable development mission urge companies to lend their support towards accomplishment of these global goals. Skill development is given due importance in this sustainable agenda.
Target 4.3 of SDG-4 highlights equal accessibility to affordable and quality technical and vocational education.
Target 4.4 suggests increasing the number of youth who have relevant technical and vocational skills for employment and entrepreneurship. SDG-8 targets decent work and employment which is not achievable without skilled manpower.
Skill development finds a place in the Schedule VII that prescribes areas for CSR programme of companies which are under the ambit of mandatory CSR provisions as per Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013. Also, some other prescribed activities under this Schedule are directly or indirectly connected with skilling. It needs to be stated that a good number of companies have prioritized skill building under their CSR agenda of late.
The way Corporate Sector can contribute for skilling people
CSR capital should be infused into the endeavour of skill development to make it more relevant and strategic. Corporate bodies with their CSR agenda should open up for collaboration with government, academic houses, NGOs and training agencies in order to give a boost to the skilling drive.
Following diverse options can be considered by corporate houses as ways to add to government’s job of skill building.
It is expected that corporate bodies engaged in CSR activities conduct baseline analysis of socio-economic profile of the regions around their operation. Understanding skill profile of the regions in terms of demand and supply must be a part of it. By this, existing skill gap can be identified, and accordingly skill building programme can be designed for execution.
Big companies may develop potential of employees of start-ups by imparting training as per their requirement. Growing number of start-ups in India are perceived as boosters for economic growth and social development.
It is imperative for companies to upgrade skill of employees engaged along their supply chain. Undoubtedly this earns a good return in terms of productivity and quality of service for the primary company.
Companies should use their ability to recognize futuristic skill areas. Such new areas can be identified by looking at opportunities like technological advancement or by considering challenges like climate change, water crisis, energy crisis, etc. Corporate houses need to spearhead in imparting such new-age skills whose takers can be fresh job-seekers, small entrepreneurs and experienced employees.
On the other hand, traditional and dying skill areas need to be revived. Rural artisans reeling under poverty should be supported through funding, value-addition knowledge and market linkage under CSR programme.
Companies can set up Centre of Excellence (CoE) on the sector they are expert in. CoE should act as a skill lab where trainers will be trained through ToT programmes. Their own employees should be persuaded to act as subject matter specialists.
Using CSR fund companies can create infrastructure and improve the existing ones for training and capacity building of young population in rural and suburban areas.
Technological advancement and knowledge-based economies demand new kinds and levels of skills. Companies may help in designing customized modules for these skill areas in collaboration with academic institutions, research bodies and government agencies.
Industries may lead the way in popularizing and providing training on new-age topics like Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, Data Analysis, Robotics, Renewable energy generation, Rain water harvesting, etc.
Industry professionals should share their knowledge, skill and experience with institutional platforms like Industrial Training Institutes, Vocational Training Centres, etc to ensure effective transfer of knowledge and skill to the next generations.
More than two-thirds of total jobs are produced by Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) whose employees hardly get any scope and opportunity to upgrade their skill set. Big companies can take up the responsibility of advancing skill level of this large chunk of job holders so that they can perform more efficiently.
Corporate sector can play a big role in making skill development efforts more inclusive so that ‘skill divide’ will be minimized. Aside from improving accessibility for marginalized sections and women, creating opportunities for people with disabilities (PwDs) should be stressed upon.