The path to effectively scaling skill development programmes

A substantial effort is need from all stakeholders to meet the government’s target of skilling 550 million people by 2022

Updated: Jun 29, 2016 08:40:53 AM UTC
The launch of the Skill India Mission, and the creation of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has created an ideal political climate for companies to get involved and work towards scaling up their programs (Photo: Shutterstock)

Every year, India adds about 12 million people to its workforce, out of which a paltry 3.1 million are trained or qualified.

To close this gap in skills, the Indian government introduced the Skill India Mission which aims to train 550 million people by 2020. Since its launch on 15th July this year, the Mission has directed significant attention towards the issue of livelihoods and skill development and has garnered considerable support from companies and other key players in the sector. With the country projected to experience a peak in the ‘demographic dividend’ by the year 2020 (i.e. more than half of the population will be under the age of 35), India must make the most of this situation by harnessing the potential of this resource and undertaking strategies that are replicable and scalable.

Why scale up the skilling effort? Getting anywhere near the government’s ambitious target of skilling 550 million people will require a substantial effort from key stakeholders, including the government and government machinery, NGOs, social enterprises and companies.


Dealing with such a vast number of unskilled people means that programmes will have to be scaled across national and regional levels in order to have significant impact.

Scaling skill development programmes will also directly benefit companies, especially those which operate in high-growth and resource intensive industries like manufacturing, retail, textiles, construction and others by providing these industries with the skilled labour they need in order to grow.

The 5 lessons for scaling up programmes
Scaling up is a long-term commitment. It takes time and effort from many players and can be challenging, especially when dealing with the shifting priorities of governments and donors.

So let’s take a look at the five key lessons for effectively scaling up programmes: A conducive political environment, strong partnerships, adopting a lifecycle approach, systematic monitoring and gradual processes.

1. Conducive political environment
Political commitment is critical in order to scale up programmes. For skilling this is good news. The launch of the Skill India Mission, and the creation of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has created an ideal political climate for companies to get involved and work towards scaling up their programmes. However, government priorities tend to change quickly – in the past few years alone, it has moved from sanitation to skilling to digital literacy – and scaling up needs a longer period of time to achieve results. It is critical that those involved in skilling use current avenues of opportunity to build lasting connections that can be sustained over the period of scaling up.

2. Strong partnerships
Partners are a key factor in helping to maintain the momentum and focus of skilling programmes. Having clearly delineated roles and responsibilities for each partner will also ensure that the scaling up process is focussed and will avoid overlapping functions. Companies can engage with models similar to the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), a public-private partnership between the government and the private sector, which is jointly funded by the government and companies and provides accredited skill training programmes to communities across India. Developing strong partnerships with the government, NGOs and other relevant stakeholders is a key requirement for achieving any significant impact at scale.

3. Lifecycle approach
Adopting a lifecycle approach to skilling will make sure the kind of skills imparted to trainees are marketable and linked to available jobs. A lifecycle approach looks at all aspects of skilling, from the aspirations of people before training, to counselling and following up with beneficiaries during their employment. Skill development programmes conducted in this manner will ensure that the training received has an impact on livelihoods and contributes to the economic well-being of communities. It is also important to ensure that a particular kind of skill training isn’t scaled across multiple areas in the same region as it will result in a saturated market with limited opportunities for those who are trained. If everyone in a particular district is trained in carpentry, there will be too many carpenters and not enough jobs. Conducting skilling programmes at scale without developing a diverse range of training programmed or understanding what skills are needed may have an adverse effect.

4. Monitoring programmes
Monitoring and evaluation needs to be sustained throughout the scaling up process in order to get a clear idea of what works and where things went wrong. Without robust monitoring procedures, learnings will not emerge and there will be no space for course correction. Documenting every success or failure is critical as it will help partners learn from mistakes and develop a set of best practices. In order to understand the effectiveness and ability to scale, monitoring needs to happen on two levels: At the original pilot phase and during the scaling up process.

5. Gradual process
Scaling up requires a long-term commitment and companies need to be aware of this. Partnerships formed to scale social sector issues like skill development rely on political processes, public sector bureaucracies and community engagement – none of which move quickly. Approaching the scaling up process in an orderly and gradual manner with careful logistical planning and a clear definition of a partner’s roles and responsibilities will go a long way to effectively scaling up skilling programmes.

Finally, it is important to remember that no one model can work everywhere – adapting programmes to diverse cultural regions or the specific requirements of trainees is par for the course. The process of scaling up is fairly fluid and subject to various changes.

While scaling up programmes is crucial to close the wide gap in skills that India is currently experiencing, there are certain compromises that companies and their partners should be prepared for. Scaling up tends prioritise reach over impact, i.e. programmes may have a wider reach but the impact within communities may become diluted due to the explicit focus on geographical and numerical reach.

That said, getting close to skilling 550 million people by 2022 needs a concerted effort from multiple stakeholders in the ecosystem and can only be achieved if programmes are replicated and scaled across the country.

-By Rachel Aneesha Rao, Associate, Communications

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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