Four lakh ITI students will get an SMS from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday cheering their choice of picking up vocational education as a sign the government is serious this time to correct the basic problem of lack of trained manpower to drive its ‘Make in India’ ambition.
Alok Kumar, director general, employment and training the department under which all ITIs run at the Union ministry of labour, said India is producing roughly the same number of technicians as engineers every year.
“It is a perverse position. There are 11,500 ITIs whose number of seats is roughly the same as that for undergraduate engineering colleges across the country of about 16 lakh,” he said.
On Thursday as the government launches its Deendayal Upadhyay Shramev Jayate Karyakram this is the biggest asymmetry it will look to correct. The messages are meant to give them the sense they are not the drop outs from the education system. This is the first time an Indian Prime Minister will connect with these pass outs. “Most choose ITI after exhausting all other options,” says Kumar. The government has to correct that impression if the normal ratio of 10 trained shop floor workers to one engineer has to be achieved in manufacturing companies.
So along with the SMS, the Prime Minister will also release a national brand ambassadors’ book lauding some of the ITI pass outs in the past 60 years who have made a name for themselves.
Arun Kumar Sinha, additional secretary in the labour ministry said “We expect these measures will take the message of ITI vocational training to every section of the society”.
Sinha has reasons to be concerned. Just a few kilometres away from where Modi will start the campaign at Vigyan Bhawan as the twin of the ‘Make in India’ campaign he began last month, Gaffar Market is home to India’s largest telecom repair bazaar.
The three floor market is packed to the rafters with shops crammed with young men who repair every sort of mobile phones including the latest iPhones to the cheapest models. According to Charan Ahuja who owns a shop by his name, the boys he employ or others perched on tools across the small yet densely crowded market have no formal training from any ITI or other institutes. Most of them are not even aware that there could be such training.
While the ITIs have expanded in the past few years in response to the needs of the domestic manufacturing, those who are ambitious have ditched those for an easy seat in the engineering colleges. Kumar’s data shows that of the pass outs from the non-IIT engineering colleges less than 25 per cent have any employability skills. Similarly the construction sector in India is the third highest employer after agriculture and manufacturing where about 4.2 crore workers find work. The smart cities plan and that for housing for all by 2022 will need sharp increase in the skill set of these employees, 80 per cent of whom, according to labour ministry data, have no such capabilities as of today. The ministry plans to bring in an on-site testing centre scheme at selected construction sites. There are other plans to give them short term upgrades of which a principal one says Sinha is a “Recognition of Prior Learning of Construction Worker” utilising the cess funds the government mobilises from construction projects.