Sarbananda Sonowal: Meet the minister in charge of infusing new life into India’s skill development programme

The officers in the labour and MSME ministries whom ET Magazine interacted with say handing over all skill development work to one single ministry is unlikely to materialize in the near future. But Sonowal is confident that all skill development work currently being undertaken by various ministries will converge into his ministry in a phased manner.

For now, Sonowal’s ministry is mandated to “evolve an appropriate skill development framework, removal of disconnect between the demand and supply of skilled manpower through vocational and technical training, skill upgradation, building of new skills, innovative thinking…mapping of existing skill and their certification”, according to Cabinet secretariat notification.

Also, three key agencies — National Skill Development Corporation, National Skill Development Agency and National Skill Development Trust — which used to be attached to the department of economic affairs under the ministry of finance are now under the administrative control of Sonowal’s ministry.

JP Rai, director general of National Skill Development Agency, claims that there will no longer be “training for the sake of training”. “There will now be more focus on outcome. Also, there will be more engagement with small and medium enterprises which account for about 90% of the total workforce in the non-farm sector,” adds Rai, articulating what’s new under the ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship. Sonowal says the earlier government’s target of training 500 million people by 2022 will be upped.
But he is not eying a bigger number alone. Sunil Arora, his newly appointed secretary and Rajasthan cadre IAS, and his team have been designing a skill development blueprint that is expected to be rolled out by March next year. “Skill India has to be a uniform exercise. There has to be uniformity in this journey… On skill development, we will be answerable to the countrymen [and not other ministries]. Some ministries may continue a section of skill development work, but we will be answerable,” says Sonowal. He clearly has the talent, now he needs to show the skills.


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