Summary-The Hindu-Rebooting the system for a skills upgrade

Authors: Santosh Mehrotra & Ashutosh Pratap

Private Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) are running small shops, basements, tin sheds and godowns in the country. Disturbing facts such as these come from the report of the Standing Committee on Labour (2017-18) headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Kirit Somaiya, on the “Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and Skill Development Initiative Scheme” of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).

The ITIs were initiated in the 1950s. In a span of 60 years, until 2007, around 1,896 public and 2,000 private ITIs were set up. However, in a 10-year period from 2007, more than 9,000 additional private ITIs were accredited.

Why the huge influence of the private sector?

The reason for such huge private sector influence in such a short span of time is a disregard for norms and standards. National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) today has more than 6,000 private training centres. Since it has short-term courses and its centres open and close frequently, it is all the more prone to a dilution of standards. Private training partners have mushroomed at the rate of five a day.

How the problem of private sector influence started and what were the problems created?

Private-ITI accreditation troubles started when the Quality Council of India (QCI), a private body, was hired due to “high workload of affiliation and shortage of [government] staff”. The QCI did not follow accreditation norms created by the National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT) and it appears that neither scale nor standard was achieved, but only speed. ‘Speed’ now risks the future of 13.8 lakh students (on an average, 206 students per ITI) studying in these substandard ITIs, which can be closed any time.

The Somaiya Committee report outlines instances of responsibility outsourcing, no oversight, connivance and an ownership tussle between the Central and State governments.

The relationship between ITIs and National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT)

The ITIs have a unique functioning set-up. While they were formed under the government’s Craftsman Training Scheme scheme, their day-to-day administration, finances and admissions are with State governments. The NCVT performs an advisory role. The ITIs often run into issues with no one to take ownership. A case in point is the examination process — the question paper is prepared by the NCVT, but administered and evaluated by instructors of the State Councils for VT. The NCVT is just a stamp with no role in actually assessing quality. How can quality outcomes be expected without quality assessments?

Remedial Measures

  • A national board for all skill development programmes (on the lines of Central Board of Secondary Education) must be constituted and the core work (accreditation, assessment, certification and course standards) must not be outsourced.
  • A mandatory rating system for the ITIs must be put in place and rankings must be published periodically.
  • There should be one system, with one law and one national vocational education and training system.  We need to create a unified national vocational system where the ITIs, NSDC private vocational trainers and vocational education in schools, and the other Central ministries conducting training gel seamlessly and can learn from, and work with each other. A unified legal framework can facilitate such a unification.
  • A national vocational act that replaces all scattered regulations — recommended in the 12th Five Year Plan must be enacted.
  • The ITIs have many internal issues such as staffing and salaries that need attention, as the NILERD nationwide survey in 2011 had found. There is also a critical need to reskill ITI teachers and maintain the student-teacher ratio. Since technology obsolescence is a continuous challenge, financial support envisaged through the NSDC should be extended to the ITIs.
  • Institutional reforms such as moving the office of the Directorate General of Employment (the arm that has all data on employment) from the Ministry of Labour to the MSDE would help. It would also complement the Directorate General of Training already under MSDE.
  • Taking employers on board – Placement in NSDC training has been less than 15%. Private sector engagement in skill development has been taken up by standalone private training partners and not employers. The latter could have made the system demand-driven. Meanwhile, the lack of a regulator for skill development, with teeth, has led to poor quality affiliation, assessment and certification.
  • The only way to mobilise adequate resources the right way is to do skills training, and have equipment and tools that keep pace with changing needs and ensure that employers have skin in the game. This is possible through a reimbursable industry contribution (RIC) — a 1-2% payroll tax that will be reimbursed when employers train using public/private infrastructure and provide data. RIC, which is implemented in 62 other countries, was recommended in the 12th Plan.

Relevant Data:

  • The ITIs were initiated in the 1950s. In a span of 60 years, until 2007, around 1,896 public and 2,000 private ITIs were set up. However, in a 10-year period from 2007, more than 9,000 additional private ITIs were accredited.
  • On an average, there are 206 students per ITI in India.
  • There are 183 cases pending in High Courts on non-compliance of norms by the ITIs.
  • There are various other short term training programmes of the government which evade any scrutiny and action. For example, the Standard Training Assessment and Reward scheme spent ₹850 crore in 2013-14 with no norms for quality. There were no Aadhaar checks, attendance requirements and batch size limitations. Private training operators have made a profit with no court cases.
  • 13.8 lakh students in the ITIs are suffering due to poor institutional accreditation. Placement in NSDC training has been less than 15%.

Read the full article at The Hindu.

Categories: POINT IAS

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