Revamping Skills Training to Help India’s Rural Unemployed
If India’s economic growth is going to reach those who need it most, more has to be done to connect the rural unemployed to jobs. India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but rural workers are at risk of being left behind.
“In India, as in many developing countries, most of the growth is happening in urban areas. Rural populations are often unable to access these growth opportunities,” said Warisha Yunus, moderator at Work and Employment Community, Solution Exchange, a knowledge management initiative of the United Nations in India.
The search for employment has driven widespread rural-to-urban migration, but workers from rural areas face multiple barriers once they move.
“There is a great demand for skilled labor from India’s industries,” said Yunus. “But workers from rural areas often lack the skill sets required for these upcoming job opportunities.”
Since the ‘60s, the Indian government has operated Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) across the country. But the results have been mixed. While workers acquired skills, there was little connection between the training programs and commercial and industrial employers.
“Skill development alone doesn’t benefit a worker’s ability to gain employment or higher wages,” said Yunus. “These ITIs provided skills to the trainee without providing any forward linkages. They didn’t ask, ‘What are the needs of the job market? What are the skills set required?’ But that has begun to change now.”
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Solution Exchange, which helps a spectrum of development entities share knowledge and collaborate, has seen an increasing number of organizations calling for the private sector to partner with the government to ensure that workers acquire marketable skills and are matched with real job opportunities.
Organizations like Employment Generation and Marketing Mission (EGMM), which was founded with the Department of Rural Development of Andhra Pradesh, are joining forces with local governments, industries, and public and privately-run vocational training institutes. EGMM tailors training programs to link workers’ gained skills with emerging growth industries and job openings at new companies in the region.
Another emerging need is helping workers keep their jobs.
“One of the common challenges for rural workers, besides the fact that they may not be computer literate or have English skills, is that they lack important soft skills,” said Yunus. “Once they enter a job, the candidate has to be mentally prepared to face these challenges.
“Once people are trained and then placed, the attrition rate is still high. Workers often want to go back to their rural areas, because they are unable to face the pressures of the job. So soft skills training and ongoing support are very important.”
Solution Exchange is a UN initiative for development practitioners in India and a current network partner for the Ashoka Changemakers Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works competition.
Photo courtesy of Tricia Wang 王圣捷 (cc)