How technology is catalysing various skill development initiatives at NSDC
National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) aims to promote skill development by catalysing the creation of large scale, quality and for-profit vocational institutions. Dr Manish Kumar, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, NSDC highlights the diverse technology interventions enabling them to reach the objective of skilling up the people in India
National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) was set up as part of a national skill development mission to fulfil the growing need in India for skilled manpower across sectors and narrow the existing gap between the demand and supply of skills. Since its inception, NSDC has created significant capacity for vocational training in the country. “We have facilitated skills training for 1.9 crore individuals across grant-based (including the government’s flagship scheme the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY) and fee-based training programs. Given the vast scale of the programs, we extensively utilise technology to achieve greater efficiencies and effectiveness, streamline operations and strengthen co-ordination amongst various stakeholders. Some of NSDC’s key technology implementations are highlighted below,” says Dr Manish Kumar, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The key initiatives include Skill Development Management System (SDMS) and Skill Management & Accreditation of Training Centre (SMART), while technology interventions play a key role in initiatives like PMKVY, fee-based program, promoting overseas mobility of skilled manpower, and others.
Skill Development Management System
The SDMS is a centralised database that tracks end-to-end life cycle of trainees across NSDC’s various programs. Starting from mobilisation and enrolment, the platform captures data uploaded by NSDC Training Partners (TPs) on various aspects related to training, assessment, certification and placement. “The existing SDMS is being replaced by a newer, more advanced version – ‘NextGen SDMS’ – which will have an even more comprehensive reporting capability. Various other platforms being used at NSDC are in the process of being integrated with this,” states Dr Kumar, adding that the NextGen SDMS will have an interface with other front-end systems, including those in the states, to provide a better picture of the skill development efforts across the country.
Skill Management & Accreditation of Training Centre
Before being on-boarded on to the NSDC ecosystem, training providers apply on an online platform known as SMART, which is one-stop web-based portal for training centre ‘accreditation, affiliation and continuous monitoring’. “Each centre undergoes a rigorous process of verification before it can start operations, including self-reporting and physical inspection by a third-party independent agency. Till date, 7500 centers have been accredited through SMART,” says Dr Kumar, informing further that there is also a framework for grading centres based on quality parameters that have been set by NSDC and Sector Skill Councils (SSCs). As the number of TCs is large, physical visits to monitor operations are not always feasible. Therefore, the SMART NSDC Training Center App is used to push notifications to TCs asking them to submit pictures of training infrastructure within an hour of receiving the notification.
Technology implementations: PMKVY
Given the scale of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) scheme, streamlining operations and processes through technology has been critical for ensuring that implementation meets expected standards. Dr Kumar points out that PMKVY is the first scheme across ministries to implement the Aadhar Enabled Biometric Attendance System (AEBAS). AEBAS is mandatory for accreditation and affiliation of TCs (except for centers in the North East and Jammu & Kashmir). AEBAS captures attendance of students in real time and the records are available on a dashboard and mapped against the SDMS. Currently, 8000-plus organisations and over 16 lakh candidates are registered on this. “Other financial disbursements under PMKVY Short Term Training (STT) are done online directly to the bank accounts of various stakeholders such as TPs, SSCs, and candidates (the latter is in the form of a Direct Benefit Transfer). The entire process is automated and linked to the SDMS, and robust systems with checks and balances have been put in place,” mentions Dr Kumar.
Also, under the Kaushal Bima scheme, NSDC has collaborated with New India Assurance (NIA) to provide an insurance facility to PMKVY certified candidates. This is being operationalised through a technical integration of the SDMS and NIA portal. Over 10 lakh insurance certificates have been generated as per SDMS records since April 2018.
“Among the various initiatives for creating more interactive and effective learning for students, we are currently piloting an English, Employability & Entrepreneurship Module (EEE). This would replace the existing 40 hours of the mandatory Employability & Entrepreneurship Module with a 155 hours module. Instructor-led training will be imparted on blended EEE modules through a Learning Management System (LMS),” affirms Dr Kumar, adding that the salient features of the LMS include e-content for trainers and candidates, online formative and summative assessments, dashboard views for batch- and candidate-wise training progress.
Assessment and certification: Assessments are an essential part of competency-based skill training. To make the process seamless and efficient, NSDC has set in place platforms to enable Aadhaar-based validation of assessors, and online tracking of assessment schedules, scores and pending assessments. “As per the SDMS data, the assessment turnaround time (TAT) has improved from 21 days in FY 17-18 to 16 days in FY 18-19. In addition, we have started undertaking technology-based assessments – online assessments are currently being done for 157 job roles across 24 sectors. We also offer a ‘Digilocker’ facility, wherein candidates who pass assessments can access their certificates online – so far, 19,000-plus certificates have been accessed through this,” remarks Dr Kumar.
Query resolution and stakeholder management: The PMKVY team uses the JIRA ticketing tool to capture and track technical issues and queries of external stakeholders (TP, TC, SSC, Assessor, Assessment Agency and candidate). The tool also maintains a database of frequently asked questions.
Monitoring: The Power BI tool is used extensively at NSDC for monitoring and analysing the scheme’s progress. In addition, the PMKVY website hosts a dashboard that provides real time updates on the scheme’s progress and highlights major indicators.
Target allocation: Under PMKVY 2016-2020, NSDC launched a Request for Proposals (RfP) in August 2018 to allocate targets to training providers. According to Dr Kumar, the entire process was done online, including submission of proposals and documentary proof, due diligence of shortlisted proposals, tracking of proposal status. A total of 1,295 applicants submitted 17,734 proposals with a proposed target of 128.36 lakhs within two months.
Technology intervention plays a key role in the fee-based program, under which NSDC supports private sector training initiatives through operational, technical and financial assistance. “For instance, we maintain an online directory and portfolio of NSDC’s TPs known as the ‘TP Hub’. There is a self-reporting platform for TPs on which they describe their consolidated skilling portfolio and their profile is published on the NSDC website,” says Dr Kumar, indicating that the fee-based team uses the JIRA incident management tool, an automated solution for effective tracking, prioritisation and timely closure of issues and requests raised by TPs. Also, an app known as ‘TCVerify’ is used for center verification and validation.
NSDC has collaborated with NSDL e-Gov to launch Vidya Kaushal. This first-of-its-kind, single window platform aims to facilitate individuals to apply for financial assistance / loans from empaneled NBFCs to pursue skill training courses.
Overseas mobility of skilled manpower
India International Skill Centre (IISC) is envisaged as a network of organisations that are involved in the operational value chain of placing skilled candidates overseas, anchored at the national level by MSDE through NSDC. Dr Kumar highlights that this initiative is also seeing various technology interventions, “For instance, potential migrants can register for Pre-departure Orientation Training (PDOT) on a dedicated online portal. Further, as part of their PDOT, they can undertake basic language skill training through online videos. Assessments conducted under the IISC pilot were done on tablets, making reporting and result generation faster and more accurate.”
Enabling and support systems
The Training of Trainers / Assessors (ToT/ToA) program runs a portal known as Takshashila, which captures life cycle data of trainers and assessors and is a location- and job role-wise database of certified trainers and assessors and of ToT/ToA centres.
“The need to continually create new standards for training and regularly update existing ones to stay in step with evolving technologies, new ways of working and the future of jobs is an important element of our efforts,” says Dr Kumar, elaborating further that the skill training courses are aligned to the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF), which is a descriptive framework that organises qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. National Occupational Standards (NOSs) are derived from these and define what an individual performing a task should know and do. A combination of NOSs forms the Qualification Pack (QP) for a given job role.
“Till date, we have created over 2,300 QPs consisting of over 6200 NOSs. We continually upgrade our content and trainings based on the developments in the market and source information about the changing market trends and new technologies from the SSCs,” mentions Dr Kumar, adding that they are also working with key players in the tech sector such as IBM, Renault-Nissan and Singapore Polytechnic for credentialing and micro-badging for mobile app development, cybersecurity, analytics, cloud, business process and big data.
NSDC and the IT-ITeS SSC have collaborated with NUS-ISS to facilitate upskilling in new technologies such as artificial intelligence/machine learning and big data analytics. NSDC has also partnered with an organisation to promote the use of AR/VR vocational training, and with another one to deploy AR/VR content in training for the construction of twin pit toilets in rural areas.
Standards are translated into training content and curricula by NSDC’s learning content team. “Among its key technology initiatives is the online provision of learning resources. The team has rolled out Kaushal Mart, a classifieds marketplace for resources such as books for trainers and trainees, technical reference material and other items that are used in training,” states Dr Kumar. Then there is the Kaushal ePustakalaya, an eBookReader app that allows PMKVY students to access eBooks while on the move and to enhance access to content in vernacular languages. Over 200 eBooks have been released through this app.
“Further, we are promoting eLearning courses, and an eLearning aggregator portal is expected to rolled-out soon as a platform to engage with various eLearning knowledge partners. We recently launched the Knowledge Initiation & Trainee Support (KITS) portal for TPs, an online repository of information about induction kits and trainee handbooks,” shares Dr Kumar.
NSDC has a counselling initiative, Skill Saathi, that aims to enable youth to make informed career choices. “Progress of this initiative is monitored through an app, which captures data which is time- and geo-stamped, and by linking this with our centralized registration database, we ensure that there is no duplication. The app maintains records of the lifecycle of those who were counselled under Skill Saathi,” he explains.
The Market Analytics team undertakes application-oriented research and analytics to generate evidence-based insights into the skills ecosystem. For this, the team uses various statistical and econometric tools and techniques. To increase outreach to potential candidates, the media and communications team runs a ‘call to action’ number that acts as a missed call helpline service. On average, within 2 minutes of receiving a missed call on a working day, the NSDC call center returns the call and the team assists the caller as required – for example, to locate nearby training centers or provide information about different schemes.