Skilling India: What’s next?

For over six years, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has invested in education technology platforms and programs that can empower India’s young adults to learn an array of new skills from English-language fluency, to repairing cars, to learning optometry, to navigating corporate interviews and office culture, and much more. While the training offered ranges, the end goal is the same: with increased skills, more people have opportunities to improve their lives and the lives of their families and communities.

I recently attended the EdTech Asia conference to share thoughts and outcomes about how we can develop the larger ecosystem. I walked away with ideas to help answer the impact investing sector’s constant question: What’s next for #SkillingIndia, and how must our impact investing work evolve to meet existing needs?

  1. Data matters. There is a big opportunity to look at data across our work as a whole – from student performance, to job placements and retention, to reskilling – to see where there are gaps that can be filled with smart funding and investing. Platforms like Transneuron’s eKaushal have developed a marketplace that provide insights to the entire skilling industry on student journeys. Using the data, we can identify gaps and make better decisions on how to address those gaps in the system.
  2. Coordinate interventions. We must find new ways to coordinate advances and changes in the mainstream education sector with opportunities to advance skills in the labor sector. For example, the Bachelor of Vocational Degree offered by colleges and universities provide work-integrated curricula that help students get skills they need to find employment after graduation. Similarly, secondary schools are now offering employability skills courses and workshops.
  3. Matchmakers needed. Given the informal nature of India’s labor market, it is difficult and expensive for both candidates and employers to find each other. Creating a LinkedIn equivalent for the informal sector or the equivalent of Monster.com for blue- and grey-collar workers would have huge impact. It’s exciting to see several start-ups such as WorkIndia and Assan Jobs take on this challenge.
  4. Defining funding roles. There are many financing roles to fill in the skills development sector – and we must create more nuance around which funders are playing which roles. Who is playing the risk capital role? Who is early stage? Who is growth capital? Who provides the much-needed forms of debt capital? These are important conversations funders must have with each other.
  5. Involving the private sector. Industries in the private sector must be equal partners in this journey to improving employability and livelihood opportunities in India. It’s time to move beyond simple grant-based corporate social responsibility, and towards an integrated strategy that emphasizes industry’s role in solving this challenge.
  6. Where are the apprenticeships? Apprenticeships provide a great transition model for school-to-work and provide a reliable “earn and learn” model for growth. We need to see to see a more aggressive adoption of both the National Employment Enhancement Mission (NEEM) and the National Apprentice Promotion Scheme NAPS apprenticeship programs.
  7. Make the market. Lastly, for this ecosystem to thrive we need a robust education and skill financing market. Most aspirational training courses that lead to gainful employment lie beyond the scope of India’s population because most are unable to afford the course fees. Innovative financing products from fintech players like Eduvanz are challenging the status quo and addressing this $1.3 billion market gap.

This sector has many opportunities for change and growth. At the foundation, our goal is to provide new career and job opportunities to 250,000 low-income young adults globally – and skilling India is a big part of our work to help more people find stability and employment.