Indian start-ups, Smriti Irani, YuWaah, computer skills, AISHE 2018-19 data, World Economic Forum, India skill development

India added 1,200 new start-ups in 2018 alone.

A KPMG report last year highlighted that the number of Indian start-ups increased tenfold, to 50,000, between 2008 and 2018. India added 1,200 new start-ups in 2018 alone. That means 1,200 companies required web-developers and web-designers to create their websites and handle cloud and development services. The trend indicates that demand for people with computer-related skills has been growing, but the education system has not adapted to this reality. Union minister for women and child development Smriti Irani’s statement that skilling needs to start from an early age (10 or 12), thus, seems to be a good idea. At the launch of skilling initiative YuWaah in conjunction with the government, Irani also said that women need to go from being consumers to makers of technology. A Deloitte report shows that female participation in the labour force has fallen to 26% in 2018 against 36.7% in 2005. This, despite the fact that women’s enrollment in higher education has increased drastically—from 1.2 million in 2010-11, female enrollment increased 15-fold to 18.2 million in 2018-19. The situation is worse in the engineering and technical fields. As per AISHE 2018-19 data, while female enrollment in undergraduate courses was 49%, women’s enrollment in BTech courses was just 28%.

The skill development programme has faced various issues in the country—CAG had come out with a report highlighting irregularities in operation and performance of the National Skill Development Council;but, one of the primary problems has been the late introduction of skilling. While most countries start focusing on vocational education from an early age, India’s skill development starts after school completion. This needs to change. Although India introduced computer education in 1984-85, it is not counted as an integral part of the curriculum, not until higher secondary years. With software-making skills being taught at the middle school level in some countries, India needs to do the same. Last year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released a report on the future of jobs. Besides the usual warning of increasing automation and falling employment, the report also highlighted that artificial intelligence specialist, blockchain specialist, and big-data analyst are some of the likely professions of the future. All of the nine new trades listed by WEF were associated with technology. As automation increases, WEF estimates 42% tasks will be automated in 2022, a sharp rise from 29% in 2018; India cannot ignore the importance of technology for gainful employment.