Developing Skills and Competencies

The Focus

Skills are in short supply – that’s what the Indian Government survey says! There is a National Skills Development Corporation that is supposed to skill up an entire generation and make them job worthy (inadvertently admitting that the formal education in India has a ‘disconnect’ with the job generating industries in the country)! In the union budget of 2014, the finance minister has allocated more than a Rs. 1000 crore (that is more than 150 million dollars). The India Today in Education 10th July 2014 edition says: “A national multi-skill programme called Skill India is proposed to be launched. It would skill the youth with an emphasis on employability and entrepreneur skills.”

So all is well as far as the ideas and investments are concerned. What about the results? How do we ensure that a person has acquired a certain skill and is competent enough for a job? What about women in the workforce?

Young students complete their higher education, come out of colleges only to realise that they have to take some more training and certifications from other skill imparting organizations – so as to get a job! Or join a company and spend efforts in getting trained for a job first before being fully employed! The fees they pay, and the endless hours they spend trying to learn skills, is in a way quite a waste of time and money! (A gender sensitive side note: In this hoopla of spending time and money, career-minded young girls loose out quite a bit, because most middle class parents would rather spend on their marriage than worry about skilling them for a job – the prospects of which are uncertain, and sometimes intangible!)

Building the KSA


Acquiring first the knowledge, then the skills and later on the abilities (and competencies) are very complex psychological issues for a learner and the teacher. Companies in the business of skilling people should know that:

  • Learning is a personal endeavour (it’s like you can take a horse to water but cannot force it to drink)
  • A student must have the right motivation and environment to learn
  • The learning outcomes must be transparent and quantifiable for all stakeholders
  • A trainer or a teacher has to be inspiring, or should at least show interest and concern about the student’s learning abilities.
  • A student should see a light at the end of the tunnel – meaning thereby they should see the some prospects of a reasonable job (which pays in commensurate with the efforts of developing the skills) or may be a promotion that they may be seeking.

The biggest hurdle is getting good teachers! Why so? Years and years of failed education system in India has given rise to a very low quality teaching pool; also there is crony culture and political meddling in each and every step of the way of hiring teachers!

So how can we improve and build KSAs?

Here are some suggestions, keeping in mind the bulleted points mentioned above:

  1. Skill India and National Skills Development Corporation should have strict guidelines regarding whom they hire and why they hire.
  2. Private industries can have a bridge courses for students whom they may hire in future.
  3. Vendors who training must have (a) top quality teachers and facilities and (b) should work closely with industries and placement services.
  4. Certifications should be genuine and be recognized by industries.
  5. Knowledge and skills can be gained somehow, but what about abilities (competencies)? It should be made compulsory that training has to have some sort of a component for
  6. (a) Internship (b) hands-on experiences (c) project work.




Skills vs Competencies

Feature Skills Competencies
Definition Skill implies the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, to do something in a job well. Competency implies person having more than practical skills, they should have adequate knowledge, analytical ability and problem solving skills as well. Competency implies a cluster of skills and their applications
Objective or subjective? Objective Subjective
Is evidence or application of knowledge required? Not always. Yes
Example A person can cook well in a kitchen.


He/she has cooking skills.

A person is in a remote camp, and has very limited facilities for cooking. He/she sums up what is available and prepares food.


He/she has competency for cooking.

Measurable? Yes.  Ability to perform a specific task Difficult to measure, as many factors play in.
Are they part of each other? Skill is the first wrung of a ladder of knowledge.


Generally competency is not considered to be a part of skills.

Skill is a part of competency.


Competency = skill + ability to effectively apply it whenever necessary.

Does attitude and behaviour of a person matter?
What are the different types? There are basically 2 types of skills:

(a)     Basic skills such as literacy, communication skills

(b)     Job related skills required to perform a specific job

Competencies are basically grouped into 3 types:

(a)     Behavioural

(b)     Technical

(c)      Business

What is the relation to education, training and/or experience Related to education and training. Related to education, training and experience.
Which is easier to impart and acquire? Skills can be taught and is easier to impart.


Skills are easier to acquire.

Competency comes from long time orientation to a particular job or skill.


Competency for a particular job or skill cannot be acquired easily.


A competency is more than just knowledge and skills.  It involves the ability to meet complex demands, by drawing on resources.

Certifications indicate An ability of  being adequately or well-qualified physically and intellectually An ability to produce solutions in some problem domain
Is it an individual endeavour? Yes.


Acquiring knowledge and skill is an individual endeavour.

Not necessarily.


Acquiring a particular competency may not be an individual endeavour. It may involve team activity, and alignment to strategy of a company, etc.


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