Here’s what employment exchanges and career centres in India need

a hand holding up a sign: Not just money: Here’s what employment exchanges and career centres in India need

© Swathi Moorthy
Not just money: Here’s what employment exchanges and career centres in India need

In July 2019, Satish Nalawade had enrolled with a Maharashtra-based employment exchange that has now become a model career centre (MCC). While he enrolled with the hope of securing a job matching his computer science skills, he has not found a single opportunity.

“We were told that the MCC would not only help us connect with companies hiring but would also equip us to gain relevant skills for the job role. However, except one job fair that was held in December 2019 there has been no development on the employment front,” he added.

Twenty-two-year-old Nalawade, who had completed a technical computing course from Pune in 2018, also said that the job fairs attracted merely 10 companies and the lockdown has only made things worse.

The central government has released Rs 42.56 crore as aid to States to set up model career centres across the country. However, with the absence of proper handholding for conversion of employment exchanges into model career centres, job opportunities are hard to come by.

Close to 10 million people are eligible to enter the workforce every year. Owing to the Covid-19 lockdown, close to 20 million people have lost their employment and are seeking alternative job opportunities.

Remodelling of the employment exchanges and MCCs to make them more IT ready and interlinking them with vacancies across the country could present a ray of hope for Nalawade and millions of other job seekers.

 What is MCC?

MCC is a part of the National Career Service, a five-year mission mode project launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2015. The project is part of the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

Here, the National Career Service (NCS) is intended to be a one-stop solution that provides a wide array of employment- and career-related services to Indian citizens. It works towards bridging the gap between job seekers and employers, as well as candidates seeking training/career guidance with agencies providing training and career counselling.

 This includes a countrywide set-up of MCCs and inter-linkage with all the States through employment exchanges. Here, the jobs advertised include both government and private companies’ vacancies. Applicants range from 10th pass to university graduates.

 Expansive role

The MCCs are responsible for organising job fairs, mobilising employers (government and private), and providing career counselling. The Labour and employment ministry gives a one-time grant-in-aid to the State governments.

 For interlinking of employment exchanges, the government has released Rs 68 crore of grants so far to various State governments. This is over and above the Rs 42.56 crore aid for the MCCs.

 Depending on the job role, the annual pay scale for these vacancies ranges between Rs 1 lakh to 5 lakh.

 The idea of an MCC is is that once a job seeker enrols with the centre, there will be an assessment of his/her skills and those required in vacant job positions. It will be the responsibility of the MCC to guide the candidate regarding the upskilling requirements and also help connect them with companies. 

The challenges

Even as the employment exchanges are slowly being converted into MCCs, there have been challenges pertaining to employability of candidates as well as lack of infrastructure.

Government data show that there are 170 approved MCCs across the country. Since there are close to 1,000 employment exchanges across the country, this means that 830 such exchanges still have to be converted into MCCs.

“Typically, 40-45 million job seekers are enrolled into employment exchanges at any given point. Since the lockdown, the numbers have ballooned to 60 million across the country. Employment opportunities are low and several MCCs lack the IT infrastructure to run operations,” said the head of a Gujarat-based centre.

Linking of employment exchanges within a particular State and across States has been a non-starter since these platforms often do not have the resources to carry out the linking process.

Assam-based Niranjan Kalita, who is part of one employment exchange (now an MCC), told Moneycontrol that for job-seekers in his State, there are often relevant opportunities in West Bengal and Bihar but it is tough to coordinate.

“Candidates have to manually search for the job vacancies and one has to make multiple calls to verify. Sometimes, the vacancy closes due to these administrative hurdles. Making it completely online would be beneficial but then we would need to rope in an IT services provider for which we don’t have funds,” he added.

Sources said that the government will release additional funds in case the respective States set up more MCCs.

Under the NCS project, the employment ministry gives grant-in-aid to the State governments to organise job fairs, upgrade IT systems and refurbish the infrastructure of the existing employment exchanges.

Further, State governments have also been told to convert the existing exchanges into MCCs with funds promised by the Centre.

Madhya Pradesh-based Pramitesh Tiwari said that the Coronavirus lockdown has led to job fairs drying up as well. Tiwari, who is part of an employment exchange in the State, said that the exchanges don’t have the capacity to set up online job fairs.

“It is very tough to get corporates on board. When we managed to convince a few, they sought that online job fairs be organised by us. We don’t have the necessary IT resources for that,” he added.

According to Tiwari, a public-private partnership on the MCC model would work better. Here, he said that the government can give partial funding while the corporate partner would be responsible for part funding and mentoring students.

“If a large corporate brand is associated with an MCC, there will be a better response from recruiters. Also, this will ensure that job seekers are also well equipped for future job requirements since large companies can provide insights on the skill needs of the present and near future,” he added.

 Out of touch with reality

Moneycontrol spoke to three candidates who have enrolled at employment exchanges across Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring Chhattisgarh.

All three requested anonymity and said that it was technically not possible to find a job through the exchanges.

One candidate, a 27-year-old woman, lost her job as a receptionist in March and was pinning her hopes on the exchange. She said that within two weeks it became clear that her job quest through this platform wouldn’t work.

“Unfortunately, these employment exchanges aren’t in touch with the reality in the job market. Administrative delays in submission of our applications often leads to good positions being closed. I have now enrolled into a private jobs portal and that seems to be working better,” she added.

While she hasn’t got a job yet, this candidate has had interviews with three private companies and said she ‘is close’ to landing a position at an Indore-based pharmaceuticals firm.

Another applicant, a 22-year-old digital marketing aspirant, said that vacancies aren’t updated properly at these exchanges. He has been looking for a job since September 2019.

“Online job platforms are much better. I just wasted one full year and attended one job fair, which merely had five companies participating. The annual salary offered was below Rs 1 lakh. How can I sustain a family with such income?” he added.

This candidate also said that soft skills training should be provided since a lot of job applicants often don’t have the requisite skills to appear for interviews.

The third candidate also narrated a similar story. This 18-year-old college dropout said that it is necessary to get the top Indian companies to recruit through these exchanges.

“We usually get unknown companies coming to recruit. Their credentials are also doubtful and some have even been found to be fake. Why can’t the top companies in sectors like IT or manufacturing be asked to recruit at least 1 percent of their vacancies from employment exchanges? This would help in confidence building,” he added.

Short staffed as applications flood in

In remote areas like Ladakh or parts of the North-East, the employment exchanges are also finding it tough to retain staff.

 Manipur-based Jasmine Aribam, who is part of an employment exchange in the State, said that eight of the 10-member team has gone to their villages in Assam and Nagaland in March and haven’t returned.

“We aren’t able to pay fat salaries for the staff to be retained. On the other hand, the number of job seekers stays high and we have close to 25,000 such registrations across the State. How do we bridge the gap when we don’t have manpower to handle the requests? The online platform isn’t seamless for candidates to find jobs,” she added.

 Aribam also said that exchanges across neighbouring States aren’t responsive enough and that it is “almost impossible” for candidates to find jobs in metro cities.

 “It was always tough to place job seekers in places like Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru, where the pay scales are better. However, Covid-19 has worsened our prospects. What is the use of the grant when it can’t be deployed for the right purpose? We have a good building, nothing else,” she added.

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