India can reap demographic dividends by skilling people: Ansari

New Delhi: Vice President Hamid Ansari on Wednesday said India can reap demographic dividends by rapidly skilling people and added that constant revision of skilling policies can keep the skilling programmes relevant and effective.

"The key to reaping demographic dividend lies in adequately skilling our people. If we are able to provide quality skills to our people, we can transform India into a human resources powerhouse of the world," Ansari said while addressing a "Conference on Skilling India for Global Competitiveness" here.

At present, only two to three per cent working hands in India had undergone formal skill training compared to 68 per cent in the UK and 52 per cent in the US, he added

He warned that the country would witness "unprecedented" high rates of unemployment if it failed in skilling its youth.

Ansari said he saw three types of challenges in providing adequate skill building opportunities -- challenge of quality, challenge of number and challenge of perception.

Substandard primary education can "metastasise" into a stream of graduates without the required talent levels and skillsets.

"So, even before we focus on enhancing our capacities and quality in vocational training or higher education, we need to ensure that our primary education system is robust and imparts quality education," Ansari underlined.

The Vice President further said that there was need for re-skilling the workforce in the face of increasing automation. He warned that shortage of trainers could create bottlenecks for dispersal of skills.

"To become, and remain competitive, we need not just skills for our requirements today but also the skills of tomorrow," Ansari said.

He said that the general perception of people about vocational training continued to be low.

"Gaining a vocational skill is still seen as a means of last resort or a choice of those who have not been able to progress in the formal academic system. This mental block exacerbates the gap between what the industry requires and what is currently available," he said.

"Our approach should be aimed at bridging the skill gaps and addressing the problem of unemployability of our youth."

He added that the companies should be convinced to hire skilled force rather than hiring cheap labour.

"We also need to convince employers to hire skilled workforce rather than look for cheaper, unskilled or poorly skilled resources, especially when the primary challenge faced by over 75 per cent of the Indian businesses is shortage of technical or specific skills," he said