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India has potential to be skill capital of world: Ansari

Mumbai: India has the potential to emerge as the skill capital of the world, provided we succeed in equipping our working age population with marketable skills, Vice President M Hamid Ansari said on Tuesday.

"India is one of the few countries where the working age population will be far in excess of those dependent on them."

According to the World Bank, this will continue for at least three decades till 2040.

"This would be a potential source of strength for our economy, if we take the right steps to harness this demographic dividend," he said, delivering the convocation address at the North Maharashtra University at Jalgaon.

"If our GDP grows at an average rate of about 8 per cent till 2022, it is expected that we will need a skilled workforce of 500 million people by 2022, with around 12 million people expected to join the workforce every year."

"For an economy to sustain this growth rate, it would be essential for the workforce to be exposed to acquiring newer skills either through higher/technical education or vocation skills or a combination of both," the Vice President said.

Quoting the 12th Plan document, Ansari, however lamented that our higher education institutions suffer from problems of quality and that 'too many of our universities are producing graduates in subjects that are not required by the changing job market.'

While there are 227 million children studying in schools, only 15.3 million students enrol for higher education and vocational training, the Vice President said.

Ansari also observed that out of the current workforce of about 45 crore in India, only about 8-9 per cent are engaged in the organised sector, of whom only about 5 per cent possess marketable skills, as compared to 50-60 per cent in some of the developed countries.

The informal sector suffers from rampant under-employment, low productivity and even lower wages, he added.

The Vice President said skill development is a stupendous challenge, but at the same time offers great opportunity too.

"For this to happen, the skill demand will have to be matched by adequate and quality supply through mainstreaming skill formation in the formal education system and at the same time introducing innovative approaches for the skill creation outside the formal education system," he said.

Quoting the Yashpal Committee report on the Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education, the Vice President called for mainstreaming of vocational education sector into the University curriculum.

"Alienation of this sector can be overcome by bringing it under the purview of universities and by providing necessary accreditation to the courses available in polytechnics, industrial training institutions and so on."

"Additionally, the barriers to entry into universities for students going through vocational training should be lowered to enable them to upgrade their knowledge base at any stage of their careers," he added.

The Government is aware of the skill development challenge and has set out to address it in a holistic manner, he said.

The government has put in place a governance structure for implementation of skill development initiatives, as per the National Policy of Skill Development, formulated in 2009.

While the road map is ready, much more needs to be done, before we can declare success, he said, adding, "Governments, corporate sector, civil society and NGOs will have to combine their efforts in a mission mode towards the attainment of this goal by 2022."

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