The most important ‘Asset’ for any country are its people. We live in a society in communities and our actions and rewards, as individuals depend upon our education and skills. Both are intertwined as skills provide us the ability to work with our hands and faculties and education the knowledge to understand how things work and it’s linkages with other fields of activity. The true wealth of a nation are its productive skilled and educated people.
If one were look around globally, the most skilled and productive nations will be Germany and Japan, the latter developing it’s skilling system from the former. Germany embarked upon its skill based education system soon after its unification under Chancellor Bismarck who wanted to develop an industrial society which could overtake the then global power, Great Britain. It was the time when the Industrial Revolution and the use of machines was changing the world which needed a new way of skilling and development based on mechanized industry. The integration of skill education into the formal education system where one could move between the two, to create a system of developing Human Capital which stood out for its sheer productivity and high skills. This system was robust and enabled Germany to be a Great Power soon thereafter from an agrarian economy.
Even traditional societies in India, China and Europe had their own skill development systems. In Europe there was the Guild system which was a system of a closed group of skilled people, in particular professions who accepted young students as apprentices, to learn on the job and develop skills through actual work. They had their own societies and networks. Even in professions like Law and Accounting the system of apprenticeship and learning on the job prevailed. India too had a very large skill system which operated through the Jatis, where skills were passed on through close knit groups, generation after generation, developing extremely sophisticated and very often exquisite goods. India was the Textile centre and trade hub of the Ancient world, making it the richest and most wealthy country for millennia till the advent of the industrial revolution. China too had its own skill system based on social grouping, location and a finely honed system of apprenticeship, from a young age.
The Industrial Revolution changed the world leading to the Machine age and the rise of the Great Powers of Europe, who built their economy on Machines. Their hunger for raw material and global trade led them to colonize other countries and Asia suffered their rapacious appetite for raw material and markets led by their huge industrial capacities. They became wealthy on the loot from their colonies leaving impoverished nations behind, when they were finally booted out after the Second World War. They destroyed the economies of Asia, sucking out their wealth and destroying their skill based systems based on people. The destruction of India’s hand woven world class textile industry and the impoverishment of her people stand out as telling examples.
Colonization meant that the colonized could not grow their economies based on machines and standardized production. When India gained her freedom she had the vestiges of her skilled people based craft industries though considerably enfeebled and an industrial base, sub scale for a county of this size. India embarked on her journey of development but did not invest adequately in skilling her people. The education system was far removed from skilling based on the old colonial model of education designed to produce office clerks. Colonization created a society which thought that upward mobility was in education which could give an office Job rather than the skills to earn a good livelihood. This created schisms in our society which reduced our productivity and the gap between the skills needed for a modern economy and what our education gave us, widened tremendously. Productivity of labour was a casualty.
In the last 15-20 years government and society have felt the need to develop Skill Education as part of the formal education system to create a generation of young Indians who would have a formal education and also the skills to use their talent to earn a good living. It has been an uphill task to create the training material, the curricula, the trainers and acceptance and respect by society. All the while, our existing skill system through hereditary Jatis continued though diminished in scale. The new skill system also sought to recognize prior skills and intertwine the old with the new machine based systems.
Dr. Koshy has had the ringside opportunity to participate in the creation of the new skill development system from its start in 2009-2010 with his well-recognized contribution to the Integrated Skill Development Scheme (ISDS) of the MoT and implementation of the same at ATDC which he has been heading to train over 2,20,000 candidates in the centres in 24 states during the last decade. When the 1st National Skill Development Policies of 2009 and 2014 came into force he continued to play a significant role in skill development efforts for the Apparel/Garment industry which is also the single largest employment generator after agriculture.
Being himself a highly accomplished and trained academic and a skilled individual, having led the Head the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad for almost a decade, a cradle of various skills and before that as founding Sr. Professor at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), New Delhi for over 13 years, had taken up to launch ‘SMART’ (Skills for Manufacturing of Apparel through Research & Training) and later contribute to the curricula development for AICTE as the Chairman of the Committee for developing courses for the Textile-Apparel Sector. Being an innovator and creator of the new system his story of accomplishment and transformation and his views on what India needs to do in the era of Industry 4.0 and the recent call to ‘Be Vocal about Local’ during the Covid-19 Lockdown would be useful for the stakeholders especially the policy makers and the State and Central Govt. agencies. The future for any nation lies in the productivity of its people driven by skills and education. India’s New Education Policy 2020 recognizes this and has recommended the integration of skills and education from school to university which would change our entire huge education edifice.
Dr. Koshy’s tome is not attempting to present a complete blue print for the Skill Development systems in the country but presents the need for a sharper focus on local livelihood and employment, focused on both traditional and new clusters. The efforts being made in the Apparel Sector is used a case study along with the efforts in craft and other clusters in 75 districts of UP and elsewhere. He also expands on the theme of the need for more CSR support from Corporates for the skill development efforts and explain the various systems of support possible. One of the key learnings from his book is also about the need for Soft-Life skill development as integral to domain skill training and skill development efforts and delves into the success of global programme of Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) under Gap Inc. USA which has been implemented in 17 countries, in Apparel Factories. Towards the end of the book he brings into focus the evolving Future of skills and lays explain on the new skills and mindset required to face the challenges and make use of the emerging opportunities. All through the chapters of theme ‘R.U.N’., Reskilling, Upskilling, Newskilling, approach is elucidated as he argues for developing a new R.U.N. way to a new ‘Skilled India for the 21st Century’.
Dr. Koshy’s book would be a must read for everybody interested in skills and education in the 21st Century.