Special Articles / Nalini Gangadharan / Social Work Profession in India: An Uncertain Future
Skill building can be viewed as an instrument to improve the effectiveness and contribution of labour to the overall production. It is an important ingredient to push the production possibility frontier outward and to take growth rate of the economy to a higher trajectory. Skill building can also be seen as an instrument to empower the individual and improve the social acceptance or value.
The contemporary focus on skill building or skill development in India is derived from the changing demographic profiles in India vis-à-vis China, Western Europe, and North America. These changing demographic profiles indicate that India has a unique 20 to 25 years’ window of opportunity called “demographic dividend”. The demographic dividend is essentially due to two factors (a) declining birth rates and (b) improvement in life expectancy. The declining birth rate changes the age distribution and makes for a smaller proportion of population in the dependent ages and for relatively larger share in the productive labour force. The result is low dependency ratio which can provide comparative cost advantage and competitiveness to the economy. The “demographic dividend” accounts for India having world’s youngest work force with a median age way below that of China and OECD countries. Alongside this window of opportunity for India, the global economy is expected to witness a skilled man power shortage to the extent of around 56 million by 2020. Thus, the “demographic dividend” in India needs to be exploited not only to expand the production possibility frontier but also to meet the skilled manpower requirements in India and abroad. The bad news: India will produce 58 million low-skilled workers, who will find it difficult to get jobs.
India is referred to as a ‘young nation’ with 28 million population of youth being added every year. The Union Minister for Human Resource has stated that with 546 million people under 25 years of age, there is huge potential in India in the education sector that has yet to be tapped. Also, India’s transition to a knowledge-based economy requires a new generation of educated and skilled people. About 90 per cent of employment opportunities now require vocational skills training.
In response to the challenge of youth and workforce development, currently the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Urban Development & Poverty Alleviation, along with 14 other ministries, have come up with various schemes on skill development. The current framework under the “Coordinated Action on Skill Development” is a three-tier institutional structure consisting of
The PM’s National council lays down the core governing principles and operating strategies for skill development. It also reviews and guides the progress of schemes. NSDCB has taken upon itself the task of coordinating the skill development efforts of a large number of Central Ministries/Departments and States. The NSDC prepares comprehensive action plans and activities which would promote PPP models of financing skill development. The Directorate General of Employment & Training (DGE&T) in Ministry of Labour is the apex organization for development and coordination of the vocational training including Women’s Vocational Training to the employable youth in the country and to provide skilled manpower to the industry.
The Government is advised by two tripartite bodies at the national level namely National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT) and Central Apprenticeship Council (CAC). At the state level, the state governments set up State Councils of Vocational Training (SCVT) which advise the state governments in respect of vocational training at state level. A “National Vocational Qualifications Framework” is being established by the Central Government. The NVEQF would set common principles and guidelines for a nationally recognized qualification system, covering schools, vocational education institutes and institutes of higher education with qualifications ranging from secondary to doctorate level, leading to international recognition of national standards. While there have been a number of welcome policy initiatives in the sector and the level of finances available has also increased substantially, empirical evidence points to the need for an urgent rethink on some aspects of current policy, particularly building in a component of quality monitoring into programs and adoption of innovative models in the field of higher and vocational education. There is a need to stimulate and support reforms in regulatory framework and introduce a more standardized structure to promote quality skills development training so that burgeoning youth of the country can be harnessed as an economic asset.
The current capacity of institutions and initiatives which are imparting skill development in the country is 3.1 million per annum against country’s target of skilling 500 million people by 2022. India’s broken people supply chain is due to our failure to move the needle on the 3Es: Education, Employability and Employment. Unemployability is a bigger issue than unemployment; 58% of India’s youth suffer from some degree of skill deprivation. Our higher education Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is half the world average and way behind Countries in Transition (36%) and Developed Countries (54%). The vocational segment has emerged as a US$ 2.6 billion market that is expected to grow rapidly into one worth US$ 3.6 billion by 2013. Thus, the government must promote quantitative and qualitative vocational training so that the young and productive population in India can be exploited to expand the production possibility frontier and meet the skilled manpower requirements in India and abroad.
Setting Up A Social Enterprise
The CAP Foundation, initiated in 1997, has over time evolved into an innovative public private partnership to demonstrate a model that addresses poverty alleviation through LLL (“Linking Learning and Livelihood”) needs of working children and youth-at-risk to equitable and promising market oriented employability opportunities. The Foundation has demonstrated a model of Public Private Partnership between corporate, NGO, government and citizen groups in the field of child labour and rehabilitation, quality education for both in school and out of school children as well as providing market oriented employability skill development training for older adults. The Foundation works with the most deprived, vulnerable and difficult to reach sections of young men and women in poor urban and peri-urban communities at risk; CAP has a strong gender perspective.
CAP’s vision is to be an end-to-end community based solutions provider in quality education to build safer, healthier and productive communities of young people capable of supporting self-directed growth and positive citizenship. Its mission is to promote access to sustainable and affordable integrated learning opportunities for all young people from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their career and life aspirations. Initiated as a community based intervention for rehabilitation of child workers removed from hazardous working conditions with the help of police, the Child and Police (CAP) Project grew to become an independent registered entity in 2003 and later as the CAP Foundation in 2005 to encompass more innovative interventions to link learning and livelihoods for young people. Over the last few years, CAP has moved forward to provide a comprehensive academic, vocational and occupational support programmes. It also provides life skills, career guidance, and placement support to children and young people.
Besides its Child Centred Community Development program component, CAP’s three demonstrated flagship programs are:
In School : Child Centred Community Development
With grants support from Plan International, the CAP Foundation worked towards providing the children and adolescents at risk access to education and strengthening school community partnership. CAP-PLAN is a program with a long sustaining potential for child centered community based development interventions, rechristened by the children as “Asha Kiranalu” - rays of hope.
CAP Foundation’s tested and proven strategy in school improvement program accelerated learning through Bridge Schools, learning improvement program, teachers’ capacity building, parents and community involvement, and introduction of pre-vocational and employability training. As the project’s focus is on working with children and adolescents, their families were involved in all stages of the project.
All processes were put through stakeholders’ systems for capacity building and sustainability. Various groups - Child Councils, Community Learning Centers, School Alumni, Teachers and Parents groups were engaged actively in mobilizing out of school children and young adolescents for enrolment into mainstream schools through the Bridge School thereby contributing to the school development processes through stake holding and creative resourcing.
The successful implementation by the CAP Foundation has shown that more sustainable and holistic development of children is possible through integrated multi modular interventions related to learning habits and livelihoods through Child Centered Community Development module. Thus the CAP Foundation with Plan International moved into a sponsorship based funding seeking to address issues related to education, health, HIV/AIDS, water, sanitation and livelihoods for improved quality of life of children and their families.
Out Of School: Teen Channel Community Learning Centres CAP’s continuous and increasing support base and partnership initiatives between civil societies, corporate and government agencies have contributed significantly to the project understanding and developing flagship innovations, approaches and strategies for linking learning and livelihoods across the children-families-communities continuum. One such flagship innovation is the Teen Channel - Community Learning Centre Initiative.
It was observed that in the context of large numbers of adolescents who either drop-out of the formal learning opportunities or fail to complete the schooling process, and move on to acquire market driven employability competencies there is a need for a specialized learning opportunity program for 12-17 year olds that will not merely retain them in the formal education system but will help them successfully complete their schooling. No single strategy was found that could address the complex range of issues, which result in school adolescents dropping out to access learning opportunities that guarantee positive outcomes for their future. Essentially these are due to poor academic preparation/performance and poor work-world orientation, thereby leading to a mismatch between the demand and them and the deficit in knowledge, attitudes and skills and workplace competencies. While the government has been making concerted efforts to provide quality education to all children, these efforts are concentrated at the primary or at most elementary level. The experience shows that many marginalised families cannot do without the wages brought by these children.
A study conducted by CAP coupled with consultations with adolescents and their family members in 2003, helped identify major concerns affecting the learning needs of adolescents and youth at risk. Some of these concerns were lack of easy access to higher education facilities (especially for girls), inability of the existing learning module in upper primary and high schools to provide any connectivity to their future career and livelihoods, and life skills to prepare them for future. Some of the other explicitly cited reasons that emerged during further study, discussions and surveys conducted by CAP among 2500 out-of-school adolescents include physical, mental and emotional challenges faced by adolescents from urban slums particularly among first generation learners and migrants, lack of sustainable career and livelihood opportunities through the existing education system, lack of access to reinforcement opportunities to combat academic failure in formal school examinations, easy availability of temporary work opportunities often exploitative and hazardous, absence of conducive learning environment in formal schools, early marriage norms and family cycles, lack of clean and proper sanitation facilities (especially for a girl child) and inability to cope with educational pressure.
Thus, these children required an integrated and flexible learning program. To address these learning needs of the adolescents, CAP built on the bridge school program that was called Teen Channel program. The Teen Channel came as the answer for a non-residential bridge school strategy that evolved in response to the problem faced in extending the residential camp program to girls and children from minority communities, resulted in the increased enrolment of girls and also provided CAP an opportunity to successfully establish and demonstrate non-residential bridge school as an economically viable alternative to the residential bridge school. The Teen Channel program attempts to connect learning and livelihoods in a model that addresses critical issues affecting the quality of life and future of adolescents and youth who opt out of school as well as potential drop-outs among school going adolescents between the ages 14-18 years in an enabling environment that addresses their needs continuum – academic, educational, social, life skills, recreational and workplace readiness. Adolescents and young adults who go through this program are enabled to complete formal high school certification, acquire market oriented employability skills as well as apprenticeship and part-time employment placements.
The centres facilitate learning in a flexible manner at the convenience of the adolescents and the emphasis of the program is on self- learning at one’s own pace that enables them to attend the program as well as engage in non-exploitative family supporting apprenticeship/part time jobs thereby promoting “earn while you learn” concept. The centres also provide for recreational facilities for the adolescents so as to channelize their energies positively. The centres are linked to the nearest government schools for high school (tenth grade) public examinations and CAP networks with the education department to provide free text books and public examination fee exemption for the students.
What it means for the teens?
Through a broad range of stakeholders network and support, over 15,000 out-of school adolescents and young adults have been serviced under this program and supported to continue both education and work in a balanced way. They are invariably the sole or main breadwinners of their families and continue to do so while also accessing quality education opportunities to further the quality of their life and career prospects.
The outcomes have been very encouraging. Despite being school drop outs, over 82% of these children have passed their Board examinations within the year and more than 40% youth find placement after having gone through employability skill training while almost 60% go for higher education. In Hyderabad and across Andhra Pradesh, presently 12 Teen Channel Community Learning Centres are operational each servicing between 100-200 adolescents at risk.
Having demonstrated positive outcomes, the Teen Channel Program has now reached at a critical stage of moving towards self-sustainability. For this, CAP plans to adopt a mechanism called the Education Loan Programme (ELP) whereby the adolescents/youth undergoing the programme pay back the cost of training after job placement on an instalment basis (from their salary after they become self-sufficient). However, this would require a further financial and facilitation support for another 2-3 years to the above centres with an estimated cost of Rs. 6,64,125/- per centre per annum.
Post-School Intervention – Basic Employability Skills Training (BEST)
CAP Vocational Junior College was started in 2005-06 at Shapurnagar for the Teen Channel students who successfully completed the Class X through the Bridge School program. The College is recognized by the Board of Intermediate, Andhra Pradesh and offers two-year vocational courses in Computer Science, Automobile Engineering and Hotel Operations.
The vocational junior college caters to the communities that are primarily inhabited by low- income migrant population from Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring states. While the slum dwellers are an integral part of the area’s economy, they are in insecure, irregular and unprotected job environments. With low level of education and skills, majority of these families work as casual unskilled daily wage labourers in industries, construction labourers, petty vendors, domestic workers, unskilled unorganized sector workers, etc. Some of the women folk work as domestic helps, at times supported by their children particularly the girls. Thus, the income earned is not sufficient to satisfy their basic standard of living. The families are unable or unwilling to use the available income or resources to ensure children’s development. This also, at times, compels the children to enter the workforce at a very young age. In order to facilitate their families in their communities to strengthen their economic base, increase productivity levels and household disposable income and ensure that the families’ economic compulsions do not result in children dropping out of school, the youth and family members need to be provided vocational skill training.
The CAP Vocational Junior College boasts of 98% first class results, state of the art laboratory, well qualified faculty and a market driven curriculum. What makes it unique from other colleges is its strong business mentor network which comprises the top industries and emphasis on practical training and live assignments. The environment at CAP Vocational Junior College combines an excellent mix of theoretical inputs and practical sessions. There is a strong emphasis on project work as a part of the regular courses at the college. Many of the projects are sponsored by the industry. On an average a student graduating from CAP Vocational Junior College would have carried out at least 8 live projects, which is a path breaking approach adopted by CAP unlike the regular vocational junior colleges registered with the government. The program lasts for 2 years, with an on the job training at the end of the first and second year.
CAP currently has 7 Vocational Junior Colleges in Andhra Pradesh and a total of over 4000 children have successfully enrolled into the program. Over 90% complete the intermediate level examination and either move to jobs or to higher studies.
The philosophy of CAP is based on the following three convictions :
Addressing the livelihood issues of these youth, with supporting transition pathways that help them move out of poverty and towards secure futures remains at the centre of the Basic Employability Skills Training program (BEST) of CAP Foundation. As one of the pioneers in the space of community based programming for young people and building on its considerable experience in India and other countries, CAP Foundation over the last 9 years has developed a full-fledged accelerated skills training program to link learning and livelihoods for young people with forward linkages to regular employment with decent wage avenues, savings and entrepreneurship.
The intervention targets below poverty youth with special focus on school dropouts, unemployed secondary school graduates, migrant youth and youth from resettlement communities. The program supports employment opportunity oriented workforce preparation with a strong focus on life skills and work readiness. Post training, the project connects the youth to job opportunities that allows them to earn and to access peer sharing networks. This implies involvement of business, vocational training service providers and industry professionals in developing integral components to learn, acquire skills, become employable, access jobs, earn, save and advance.
This is a new-economy livelihood promotion training program which is exclusively designed for the school dropouts/ unemployed secondary school graduates/ trafficked victims/ street youth/ retrenched workers/ migrant youth/ resettlement community members from the poorest 15% of the Indian population. The program supports both employment opportunity oriented workforce preparation as well as tiny and micro-enterprise development that is specifically and clearly oriented to identified labour market requirements and opportunities. It bridges the emerging demands in the new economy with changes that need to happen in the educational pipeline for workforce preparation in the country. This implies involvement of business and industry professionals in developing integral components to education reform including contextual employability competencies, work based learning, career academies, acquiring workplace skills and advancement of employability competencies.
Uniqueness of the Model
Linking learning and livelihood: CAP’s Employability Training model’s uniqueness is the combination of the following aspects incorporated in the module Linking Learning & Livelihood including an access barrier free aspiration learning model, market oriented competency based employability skill development, a model feeder line for higher education, active and continuous participation of corporates at every stage, and institutionalized process tools.
Aspirational learning model: One of the essential components of CAP’s program is that it recognizes the gap between the growing sectors of the economy, where labour is demanded, and the type of labour available, and tries to bridge that gap. The aspirational learning model specific to vulnerable youth has been demonstrated across a variety of age groups, locations and categories.
Focus on last 20% - specific to vulnerable youth: The program defined ‘vulnerable youth’ as out-of-school individuals and high school graduates who are between 15 and 24 years of age, who have no further opportunities for study, who are jobless or underemployed. They lack income-earning skills and training and are therefore considered vulnerable to poverty and exploitation. Such youth may be rural school dropouts, migrants, who are most likely also school dropouts or illiterate youth from the villages or displaced persons; youth having school degrees and vocational training but who are still unemployed due to the poor educational quality and non-relevant curricula of these institutes; victims of violence or disasters, trafficked victims or those (particularly females) vulnerable to trafficking and slum dwellers, who are most likely also school dropouts.
Right time right place for right target group: The CAP’s demonstrated footprint has clearly vindicated its model as positioned at the right time right place for right target group in transition economy.
Participation of private sector: CAP works in tandem with corporate houses, which are the emerging sources of employment, using them for placement as also for business mentoring. The entire process from market scanning to placement is done with the cooperation and sometimes the guidance of these corporate houses under the Business Mentoring Network. The students who were placed with these corporates have become the brand ambassadors of CAP. They facilitated easy contact between CAP and the corporate groups on the one hand, and between CAP and the community on the other. For both the corporate bodies and the community, the students who received placement have become a symbol of capacity for training unemployed youth to make them market-capable; and to provide efficient and committed staff to the corporate world.
Cost effective model: The program was extremely cost effective. Over 2.5 lakh youth have been provided employability skills with about Rs.100 crore leverage generated by CAP through grants.
Processes of CAP
CAP has tested this model in various settings for different target groups. The tenacity of the model is tested both for geographic locations as well as for target groups. The beauty of the model is its ability to blend with the settings. This model has been applied to the
The model has time and again proved that whatever may be the geography, the basic elements of youth remain the same and the ability of the model to understand the expectations and needs of the youth has always ensured the success. The process is successful because it is community based, youth oriented and market driven. Most importantly it addresses the individual and economic development needs of the disadvantaged target groups. Its learning methodology is practice driven and experiential making it suitable for heterogeneous groups of learners from different academic and socio-cultural backgrounds to easily assimilate and gain from the teaching learning process besides being learner centric and peer-learning facilitated. Above all, it is an aspirational learning and training model that allows students/ trainees to be aware of and recognize their own potential, their own learning needs and aspirations and make their own learning plans for their self-development and independent growth.
Various stakeholders had their own reasons for investing in this model.
The achievements of the Basic Employability Skills Training (BEST) program of CAP can be summarized as below:
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