Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) were supposed to be the workshops of our progress, where the private sector, with government assistance, could mould a workforce best equipped to meet its requirements. Less than 3 per cent of the Rs 1500 crore allotted to upgrading these institutes has been used, and the private sector seems less than enthusiastic about the project so far. They are also
hobbled by inadequate infrastructure, poor instruction and systemic rigidity of the ITIs.
For all the happytalk about our demographic dividend, our workforce is appallingly untrained — only 2 per cent has skills training, compared to 96 per cent in Korea and 80 per cent in Japan. Private involvement in our ITIs was meant to prep our population, providing a 45-million-strong boost to the skilled workforce by 2012. So why is the skill development mission (of which ITIs are one strand) foundering? If there is limited demand in the manufacturing sector, as the review suggests, then service industries must step in to reorient these programmes. Making these technical institutes more self-directed and agile, and capable of meeting local market needs, is also vital. Setting up management committees to oversee instruction and placement, and giving students incentives, like membership of trade associations, tools, etc along with their diplomas is another positive step. Ultimately, industry-led skills training is the only way to bring our labour force up to speed. Germany has been doing it for decades — over 50 per cent of its students work in an industry for a couple of years after high school, before further studies. Ditto for South Africa and Brazil, where industries fund training based on their needs.
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