Biju Kumar, Head – Enterprise Learning Solutions, LabourNet, explains in detail about the current reskilling initiatives in India and suggests further improvement to take these efforts to the next level.
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) was launched by the government in 2015 in the form of a sub scheme under the PMKVY scheme. What were the key challenges this initiative aimed at addressing and how has the program helped the un-regulated workforce so far?
Out of the total workforce of approximately 51 crores, only 7% is in the organized sector having well defined career path. Rest of the 93% belong to the unorganized sector that either depend on daily wages or have short-term contract jobs. Majority of the workforce depict a flat career graph due to lack of skills or skill recognition. They can realize their dreams through a thriving RPL ecosystem that recognizes the existing skills of the workforce through an orientation and certification program. The orientation would also help the beneficiaries in improving quality and productivity and maintaining proper safety at workplace.
Through RPL and RPL with bridge programs, employability and upskilling demands along with the demand for training and industry linkage has been addressed, boosting career growth and organizing the unorganized sector.
What is LabourNet’s role in creating better opportunities for the informal sector workers through its re-skilling initiatives?
Following our study of the present industry trends and identifying key challenges in different sectors, we have aimed to resolve them by becoming a strategic partner in the skill development mission. LabourNet acts as a facilitator of growth of the society by enhancing the scope of employability of the participants of our RPL program. The program has helped workers know their self-worth and have self-awareness of the skills and knowledge they have.
Prior to our intervention, our beneficiaries had only minimal formal education and had to depend on a recommendation from colleagues or supervisors in the absence of any credentials proving their skills. Through our re-skilling initiatives, the gap in recognition of their existing skills has been bridged. Quality of work has improved and so has productivity.
Through our program we have empowered the labourers with latest technological knowhow and industry knowledge. This has helped them in reaching out to clients directly, reducing the bureaucracy of middlemen. Beneficiaries are able to take up surplus work or manage alternate occupation and generate additional income.
We have impacted a number of sectors such as Leather, Rubber, Automotive, Agriculture, Apparel, Logistics, Rubber, Paint and Construction touching more than 45000 lives.
What are the key challenges in implementing such programs in various locations and how does LabourNet tackle them?
Implementing the program in different sectors was exciting and challenging at the same time. Challenges are both location specific as well as sector specific. For instance, in the manufacturing sector, employers fear that once an employee has undergone some certification they might scout for better opportunities and move on, hence they prevent employees from getting enrolled into certification programs like RPL. While implementing onsite RPL models, workers, who are engaged in day-to-day work, find it challenging to enroll for RPL while at work. The cost factor of setting up camp is yet another challenge. In the painting sector, alcoholism at work place is a common challenge.
LabourNet has a proficient team that has overcome these challenges diligently by motivating labourers and their supervisors to get them enrolled for RPL and complete the whole program. Labourers are counselled on the numerous benefits of RPL that have been the motivating factor for them to enroll. Our management, too, has built a good rapport with the HR managers which has helped in successful implementation of the program.
What will be your suggestion to the government to make the current scheme for Recognition of Prior Learning more appropriate for the future market demands?
While working on these programs there have been some aspects which need to be addressed, which we wish to put up before the Government to make this program more effective. Currently, the National Occupational Standards (NOS) are very generic and the classification of jobs as per the Sector Skill Council is also quite broad; we wish to have more clarity. There are sector specific challenges and the interventions that we are addressing are very specific to job roles, hence we wish to have more functional level specializations in classification of standards.
Our clients too have made some suggestions like incentivizing employers through appreciations from the government for hiring people who have undergone RPL program and steps to improve market image of those employers who have certified labourers in their workforce.