PMO directs skills ministry to open 7,000 ITIs in one year

Given the steep target, the skills ministry is exploring the possibility of offering soft loans to private players to open ITIs. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Given the steep target, the skills ministry is exploring the possibility of offering soft loans to private players to open ITIs. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s Office has directed skills ministry officials to open within one year 7,000 new industrial training institutes (ITIs), or nearly half the number of all existing ITIs opened in India across six decades, two officials aware of the development said.

The government’s objective is to double the capacity of India’s 13,105 ITIs, which now collectively train 1.86 million students in skills related to fabrication, electronics and automobile industries. Expanding the capacity of these institutes—set up to create foot soldiers especially for the manufacturing sector—is critical to boost domestic manufacturing and provide jobs for millions of youngsters joining India’s workforce every year.

The first of the two officials, who termed it “a huge target,” said it was fixed at a meeting between officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship in the fourth week of December. “But the skills ministry has to achieve it as it has come from the top,” he said, requesting anonymity.

Given the steep target, the skills ministry is exploring the possibility of offering soft loans to private players to open ITIs as the government cannot open 7,000 institutes on its own, the official added. Ministries will also persuade companies operating in their respective areas to adopt old ITIs or open new ones. The issue also came up at a skill conclave with industries in Mumbai on Tuesday.

If the soft loan proposal takes final shape, the ministry may get higher funds in the Union budget. In the previous budget, the ministry got Rs.1,500 crore but for an individual scheme called Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana.

ITIs were earlier under the labour ministry and they have (since April 2015) been transferred to the skills ministry.

Skill development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy confirmed the development, but did not reveal more details. “We are ready to accelerate the pace in capacity-building. Looking at the skills mission, we have to do something different to achieve a huge target,” Rudy said.

The government’s push for ITIs came out in two posts by the PMO’s Twitter handle on Tuesday, citing Modi. “Parents are proud if their child is a graduate but is it the same when a child went to an ITI? Such a mindset needs to change… They say 21st century is our century, but how do we make it India’s century? By giving an impetus to skill development,” the tweets read.

A second official said opening even 1,150 institutes in 2015 was considered a big achievement by the ministry, voicing concerns on meeting the steep target. He too declined to be named. The official also said authorities were in touch with some private education providers under the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for exploring the possibility of opening ITIs. He, however, agreed that the move is in conflict with the current mindset that skill development should be asset-light.

According to data collated by the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA)—part of the skills ministry —21 departments and ministries trained 7.6 million people in 2014-15, as against a target of 10.5 million. In other words, central ministries and departments fulfilled 72% of their target in the last fiscal, almost identical to the figure notched by the previous government in 2012-13. The NSDA has been tabulating skill training outcomes for the last four years.

In fact, in the last four years, central government ministries and departments together missed the skill development target thrice—in 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2014-15. This failure does not augur well for a country that aims to impart skills some 500 million people by 2022, the second government official cited above said.

G. Raj Narayan, managing director of Radel Group, a Karnataka-based defence and aerospace ancillary firm said India’s small and medium enterprises are facing a job-ready manpower shortage and it needs government handholding both in terms of finance and skills. He said authorities need to fix the existing ITIs and their quality issues first before expanding numbers. “Capacity expansion is required, but the quality of a large number of existing institutions needs urgent attention,”said Narayan.