COVID 19 pandemic has severely impacted the global and the Indian economy. It is estimated that four out of five people (81%) in the global workforce of 3.3 billion people are currently affected by full or partial workplace closure. India along with the US, UK, Canada and most of the European countries have begun to register huge job losses leading to a significant rise in unemployment rates. The existing scenario of employment in India says that in urban areas, about 93 million informal workers are involved in five sectors that are most affected by the health crisis namely:
- manufacturing and retail trade,
- hotels and restaurants,
- construction and transport,
- storage and communications,
- finance, business and real estate.
COVID 19 and its Impact on Employment
Out of the total 93 million informal workers in these sectors, 50% are self-employed, 20% are daily wage workers and 30% are salaried or contractual employees without any social safety net. At present, maximum employment opportunities exist in logistics (warehouse and delivery), medical, health and e-retailing sector, wherein one can secure an entry level job.
Most IT-ITeS, banking, telecom companies have enabled work from home options for employees with all business operations being carried out digitally in this pandemic situation. Some interesting trends have been observed in these situations such as the demand for digital payment methods has increased, leading to higher usage of Google Pay, Paytm, PhonePe etc. Similarly, with people ordering more essential goods and services online, E-Commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, etc are doing well. These companies will need to look into investing more in resources through new recruitments in order to meet the expected needs and corresponding surge.
Impact of the Pandemic on the Skilling Ecosystem
More than 30,000 Training Centres, Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and National Skill Training Institutes (NSTIs) have temporarily suspended operations. This has impacted 50,000 plus students across India. It is imperative to address workforce-related challenges across different sectors.
Due to COVID 19 lockdown, some of the envisaged challenges in the skill development ecosystem are mobilisation of candidates post migration of people, low institutional capacity (not in line with increased requirement to meet training targets), limited IT infrastructure for conducting online training, reduced debt serviceability of skill service providers, diminishing CSD funds for skill development initiatives and lack of employment/apprenticeship opportunities due to deferment of recruitment by industry.
The current situation is not only affecting students enrolled for vocational training but also the existing workforce at large. Some of the challenges include sectoral impact on growth and manpower requirements across sectors, job losses due to business disruption and its ripple effect and surge in manpower requirements across critical sectors including healthcare and pharmaceutical, logistics and food processing.
Development Alternatives (DA) Group has adopted a two-fold strategy to combat these issues:
1. Skilling of stakeholders for conducting and monitoring the digital training
Steps have been taken in the direction of training of trainers of all the existing vocational training centres. Different platforms have been explored to orient the trainers in conducting online sessions. DA is also orienting trainers on “bridge courses” i.e ways of conducting sessions with minimum facilities. For example, using WhatsApp as a platform for training. The process of conducting trainings on WhatsApp has been piloted in various projects and shown successful results.
Efforts are also being made to normalise learning opportunities for the target groups by digitising the learning content, conducting online classes and initiating WhatsApp groups for knowledge dissemination among the beneficiaries. Going forward, DA is committed towards creating opportunities for skilling underprivileged youth through skill training in logistics, health, e-commerce and IT-ITeS sector and then linking them to sustainable livelihoods.
2. Reaching out to other organisations and joining hands for solving issues
Development Alternatives is using webinars as a modus operandi to ensure sharing of knowledge. Ideas are being shared to find new solutions.
Skilling ecosystem is at the “brink of change” and with this there can certainly be a dawn of more techno-centric education and training in the entire country if the government, civil society organisations and communities can come together to adopt and understand digitalisation as a new way of learning. This process of common endeavours must be accompanied with spreading awareness in communities about usage of digital platforms.
Some of the suggested next steps are as follows:
- The Centre and State governments should constitute a task force comprising all the stakeholders to assess, review and recommend changes in policies, procedures that can help transform India’s education and skills scenario post-COVID19.
- Develop new manpower estimates for recovering sectors. Re-visit training capacities to cater to post COVID demands.
- Accelerate sectoral training plans to meet industry demands during the recovery phase and compensate for lost training.
- Increase in Learning Management System (LMS) and synchronous video usage.
- Increase adoption of online and digital mode of education.
- Government to provide backup funding to maintain learning continuity.
- Deeper focus on completing classroom learning hours for trainees.
- Establish tracking systems to help service providers monitor students effectively.
Development Alternatives is also launching an online ‘first of its kind’ revolutionary youth platform – Bridge2Naukri (website and mobile application). It is a comprehensive online/digital solution and platform for robust training, placement and post placement assistance to the cohort of underprivileged and underserved beneficiary pool, who are seeking employment opportunities. A back-end call centre is also being setup to provide real time solutions to the candidates regarding apprenticeship/job opportunities available, training courses, career counselling and employment related peer issues etc.
Along with the government, civil society organisations have a great role to play in normalising this change. If it is done successfully, the skilling ecosystem will successfully witness a history of change which will be inclusive and comprehensive in nature. ■
- https://www.organiser.org/Encyc/2020/5/27/ COVID19-Crisis-must-Transform-Indias-Education-and-Skilling.html
- KPMG_COVID 19: skills sector impact_April 2020.
Tanvi Arora and Abhinav
The views expressed in the article are those of the author’s and not necessarily those of Development Alternatives.