Can Germany’s help rescue PM Modi’s struggling Skill India program?

Launched by PM Modi in 2015, Skill India had been failing its targets over consecutive years, according to the govt’s own figures. Will a new skill development pact with Germany rescue the program?

Dhairya Maheshwari

India on Tuesday, September 18 signed a skill development pact with Germany, deepening the involvement of the European country in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Skill India programme.

“Dual vocational education and training” will be the key focus of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed between the two countries in New Delhi, according to officials at the German embassy. It was during the visit of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to India in 2015 that Germany agreed on partnering with India in the Skill India programme.

The agreement was signed between Rajesh Agarwal, Director General of Training in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and Bernhard Steinrucke, his counterpart at the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce.

Germany’s Ambassador to India, Dr Martin Ney, who witnessed the signing of the agreement, explained that the dual vocational training programme would involve students being imparted job skills starting at school level. Noting that the concept of dual vocational training had been in place in Germany for a while now, Dr Ney remarked, “It is special because it is owned by the industry."

"As the German model is owned by the industry, the standards and exams are also set by it, and not the government," said Dr Ney.

German embassy officials said that students who complete a select few training courses in India would get a certificate that’s recognised in Germany as well, which would mean that they could also apply for jobs at German companies, in addition to domestic firms.

The dual vocational training programme will be supervised by a new organisation known as the Indo-German Programme for Vocational Education and Training (GIIVET), commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and being executed by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

Analysing the government’s performance on skilling the country’s youth over a five-year period beginning 2011, government-appointed committee found that the only time the targets had been achieved was in 2013-14, during the tenure of the Congress-led UPA government

Germany's involvement in the the programme comes around the time when the government is facing tough questions over its failure to deliver on the Skill India scheme, launched by PM Modi on July 15, 2015, with the stated intention of skilling over 400 million Indian youth by 2022. Moreover, the success of the flagship project was seen as integral to the success of other programmes such as Make in India.

Most of the similar existing government projects, including Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Kaushal Yojana and the National Urban Livelihoods Mission, were brought under the banner of Skill India.

At the time, approximately 5% of India's workforce was deemed skilled, compared to 75% and 80% in the Germany and Japan respectively, as per ministry figures. Even in China, skilled workers constitute nearly 24% of the workforce.

Unfortunately, not much has changed over the last three years, despite huge publicity sprees by the government.

A government-appointed committee criticised the Centre in its report last year for setting an unachievable target of skilling 400 million youth. The committee further found that the government had been missing its targets over the previous two years as far as skilling the workforce was concerned.

Analysing the government's performance on skilling the country's youth over a five-year period beginning 2011, the committee found that the only time the targets had been achieved was in 2013-14, during the tenure of the Congress-led UPA government.

A report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week predicted that 54% of India's workers across 12 industries will have to be reskilled by 2022 to maintain the current productivity levels.

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