As Phase 3 of Centre’s Flagship Skills Scheme Starts, Will it Rise to the Challenge?

With the previous two iterations having mixed results, PMKVY 3.0 looks to follow a district-centric approach and address skills mismatch at a local level.

Following the pandemic-induced delay, the third phase of the Narendra Modi government’s flagship skilling scheme, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), was finally rolled out last week.

Aiming to train about eight lakh candidates over the scheme period of 2020-21, PMKVY 3.0 has been launched in 600 districts across all states of the country, with a total outlay of Rs 948.90 crore. The training under the scheme is to be executed by 729 Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKK).

Introduced with the objective of serving the twin purpose of providing employment to youth and meeting the skill needs of the industry, PMKVY has long been considered a major skilling arm of the government.

The programme was first introduced in 2015 by the government under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) with an objective to mobilise youth to take up skill training for increasing productivity and aligning the training and certification to the needs of the country. The government allocated Rs 1,500 crore to train 2.4 million people, including 1.4 million fresh trainees and skilling of the remaining under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme.

According to the Sharda Prasad Committee set up by the skill development ministry to review the performance of various sector skill councils, the government through the National Skill Development Council (NSDC) overshot its target by training 1.8 million people, and certified another 1.2 million.

Following numerous problems and criticisms – in particular, the low placement rate – PMKVY was revamped and re-launched across the country in October 2016, with an outlay of Rs 12,000 crore and an ambitious target to skill one crore people by 2020, through short-term training, recognition of prior learning (RPL) and special projects. 

However, the available data on the scheme’s outcomes divulges a mixed picture. Till date, only 68.8 lakh candidates have been trained under the scheme, out of which, 33.2 lakh already possessed a job or are self-employed and underwent training under RPL. 

Also read: The Promise and the Reality of the National Skills Qualification Framework

Among the remaining 35.6 lakh candidates, only 16.85 lakh have found employment – a good chunk, thus is yet to find employment even after training. 

With a view to address this, the third phase of PMKVY initiated last week follows a rather district-centric approach, with a focus on demand driven skills instead of supply driven, as in the last six years. By making the process more decentralised, it is expected that efficient matching could take place between local youth and local jobs. Besides facilitating efficient monitoring and proper implementation, a district centric approach is also expected to improve the quality of skilling data at the district level, which would help in studying the demand-supply conditions in each district and thereby expedite the process of job matching and job mapping.

Currently, there is a huge gap between industry requirements and skills possessed by individuals at the local level, which is widening rapidly in the wake of the pandemic. While employers are struggling to deploy people with the required skill set, a huge number of displaced workers with limited skills are striving to regain livelihood. Industry 4.0 had begun to transform the world of work even before the outbreak. In 2011-12, in the textile and clothing sector alone, around 54.5% people with no formal education, close to 66% with below primary education and 53.7% with primary education held jobs that require higher education levels. On the other hand, close to 82% with secondary education, 76.5% with higher secondary education, 47.8% graduates, and 45.2% postgraduates held jobs requiring lower education levels.

The COVID-19 crisis has only worsened the situation. The skilling ecosystem now needs a completely new game plan. With ‘work from home’ becoming the new norm, functional roles across various sectors are increasingly getting redefined, leading to fundamental changes in the world of work. The prime focus in the coming years, therefore, would be on skilling, re-skilling and upskilling for surviving in the rapidly changing business environment. 

Given the appalling degree of skill mismatch in India, it is expected that PMKVY 3.0 will primarily focus on bridging the demand-supply gap by promoting skill development in areas of new-age and industry 4.0 job roles.  However, since there has already been a considerable delay in the launch of the scheme, one must be careful in setting targets. With effectively two and a half months left to achieve one year of work, there is a high likelihood that the skill training goals will not be met, and the scheme would ultimately be rolled over to the next financial year. Therefore, it is important that the district skill committees (DSCs) plan longer term goals and work accordingly rather than setting unrealistic short-term targets. 

Also read: Top-Level Exits at NSDC as Modi’s Skill India Agenda Still Struggles to Make Headway

Furthermore, training programmes planned under PMKVY 3.0 must recognise the growing importance of remote working and increased digitalisation and automation. Lastly, through its focus on demand-driven skills, the scheme must work towards fulfilling the twin objective of enabling workers to regain income and meet their career aspirations by securing quality jobs on the one hand and addressing the needs of employers and firms by providing them with the requisite talent for them to stay competitive on the other. As India embarks on the path of self-reliance through its Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, It is expected that the third edition of PMKVY will equip the youth with skills required to meet the employment needs of the future.

Prateek Kukreja is Fellow at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). Views expressed are personal.