How to make maximum progress with the demographic dividend


India has one of the largest pool of young educated and also trainable manpower in the world. They are in the age group of 18 to 35. It is just that we need a little more focus on how to reap the biggest advantages of what is commonly called demographic dividend. That is, realizing the power of youth. Some routes to this desirable end are sought to be discussed in this article.

Introduction

The concept of demographic dividend is simple. It just refers to a vast pool of young people who are aged between 18 and 35. As one country that has this advantage, India has to necessarily take several steps to take maximum advantage of its democratic dividend and also make maximum progress in terms of some urgent interventions in this regard. India has one of the largest pools of such manpower that can be trained and utilized for various jobs at all levels in the world. The need for job-oriented courses is one imperative that needs to be addressed. Secondly, our training institutions like the ITI also need to be revitalized to make the products already employable. Thirdly, we also need concerted action to make available a number of opportunities through some unique courses. The impact of these courses will increase employment opportunities.

It is in this connection that we need a) Massive increase in job-oriented courses b) Changes in apprenticeship schemes c) Increasing scope of entrepreneurship d) Area-specific inclusive development and e) Revamping of University infrastructures.

Massive increase in job-oriented courses

There is an urgent need to keep on increasing the number of new job-oriented courses that can add real value to the youth and their gainful employment. This is one sure way of increasing the potential of the demographic dividend, as thousands of such employable graduates and others will make a big difference.

For example, it was in the early eighties that a prestigious course called B.Sc(Visual Communication) was launched by the world-famous Loyola College, Chennai. This college has been autonomous for decades. There are PG courses now too. The products of this course at the UG and PG level are taught film direction, script writing, photography and the like. Most of them become actors as well. The famous names are Vijay and Surya of Tamil Cinema. Strangely, this course has not crossed Tamil Nadu. The UGC and AICTE should make a note of such courses and have a fairly large pool of professionals from the field to teach and train students, pan-India.

Another profession that has made a huge impact relates to Event Management. It is noticed that there are various courses in this vital field. To be sure, Event Management is one profession where the conceptual inputs and the entire syllabus can be designed only from practice. For example, many International Management Conferences are totally entrusted only to professionals in Event Management. There is such detailed planning and co-ordination involved. Such a course can be effectively combined with the UG and PG courses available in Tourism Management in Universities and the likes of Pondicherry University that has the PG course in Tourism Management can take the lead.

The University of Delhi has the Delhi School of Economics that conducts the MA(Economics) course. The products are simply world-class. There is a Madras School of Economics and the Madras Institute of Development Studies. But why have these top-notch institutions are not been able to transfer their rich knowledge and expertise to other institutions for cutting-edge research is one vital question. The best method that can be really given a serious thought for implementation is to have "Mentor" institutions, from which the concerned Faculty Members will have access to knowledge and resources for not only research but also for more advanced dissemination of knowledge to a far greater number of students than as of now.

This is already going on in the IIMs. For example, when the new IIM was set up at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, IIM Bangalore was appointed the Mentor. One needs to facilitate a similar arrangement for all courses as well. Take, for instance, one area that is having maximum potential - Capital Markets. Only in Mumbai and a few other places, specialized courses are available. Every University in India should have the UG and PG courses in Capital Markets and the experts from the field should be involved in the conceptualization and delivery of such courses.

The effective utilization of young minds who are qualified and trained on the above lines will make a vital difference to the employability of more people. This will ultimately lead to a far better realization of the demographic dividend.

Changes in apprenticeship schemes

It should be realized that not every young man or woman can become an engineer or a doctor. There are economic problems. There are also cultural problems. What we need is a drastic overhaul of the existing schemes of practical training that will surely unleash the innate potential of the youth and the demographic dividend.

In 2014, the Modi Government sought to introduce an apprenticeship training scheme, initiated by the AICTE. Whomsoever thought that this scheme will result in a massive surge in regular employment was sadly mistaken. The scheme was called National Employment Enhancement Mission (NEEM) scheme. The trainees were taken under this NEEM scheme and paid only a consolidated salary. The main pitfall of this scheme was that the employer was not required to even pay the statutory dues like PF and ESI. This led to the massive exploitation of labor. There was no guarantee of regular employment at all. The training was given and the NEEM trainees got to do the regular jobs after just six months. This has lead to more dissatisfaction.

The best option is to engage with employers at all levels and impress upon the need for employers to take the apprenticeship schemes more seriously and then offer the trainees regular jobs. Unless regular jobs increase, the economy cannot be revived. No bank will ever give any loan for a temporary trainee. This is exactly why the NEEM scheme failed. Let the companies have several grades. For example, many have progressive designations such as Junior Engineer, Asst. Engineer, Engineer, Sr. Engineer and so on. Responsibilities increase with each level. The salary and regular perks increase too. This is exactly how the employees should be treated. This is one sure way of increasing consumption at all levels. The youth will also have social security. Exploitation should stop. For, when this happens and people are in regular jobs, we would not only have done social justice but also made deep inroads into reaping the benefits of the demographic dividend. We will also enable millions from rural areas to get meaningful employment.

Encouraging entrepreneurship at various levels

Yes, demographic dividend also means that India should have even more millions of entrepreneurs. This is one area that needs more attention than ever before. Though the MSME outfits are doing a good job in cities like Chennai, we need a more broad-based approach towards training and motivating hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs. The urgent need is to introduce UG and PG courses in Entrepreneurship Development in every University. It needs to be an inclusive exercise in which the entrepreneurs are taught the scope of various new markets. To give a simple example, an entire tribe of new IT professionals is actively engaged in designing games for children. There are many organizations like HeyMath! , for example, that are into the specialized educational sector. However, a lot more needs to be done to train entrepreneurs in the B and C class towns.

To this end, the State Governments need to establish the new institutions under the Public-private model and then make it mandatory for these institutions to train the Faculty Members of the University colleges where the UG and PG courses in entrepreneurship are conducted. We need a more integrated approach. The syllabus can be drawn up by experts in the field.

Area-specific inclusive development

To give a specific example, the units at Sriperambudur and Oragadam near Chennai and at Hosur near Bangalore, often complain that they do not have adequately trained manpower at any point in time. The urgent need is to form Memorandum of Understanding ( MOU) with various institutions like the ITIs, the Diploma polytechnics, the engineering colleges and so on, and have the internship scheme that will make it compulsory for the respective students to undergo internship. Only then can we reap the benefits of a particular cluster of industrial organizations, anywhere in India. If we do not have such area-specific development, we cannot take advantage of the democratic dividend at all.

Revamping of University infrastructures

We can ill afford to have pure academics who are more bothered about their pay and perks. We need to change their outlook and the tie-ups with industry should be made compulsory. What about courses like Industrial Chemistry, for example? What about a Post Graduate Degree in Sustainable Development? Such courses would mean that the teachers go to the field and the real world experts are involved even in framing the syllabus. No University should function without these kinds of linkages.

Conclusion

Some ideas to revitalize the vital industry-institute interaction needs to be done more systematically and more meaningfully take maximum advantage of the demographic dividend have been discussed above. We also need more focus on entrepreneurship. Obviously, the trick is to increase the scope and depth of the interventions discussed above.


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