Published On: Wed, Jan 4th, 2012

Vocational Education & the year passed by…(3)

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Skills development in India got an impetus when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted the National Council on Skills Development in 2008 and the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) thereafter. For NSDC, this year has been one of the best — a-one-of-its-kind public-private partnerships formed to contribute significantly to the charter of skilling Indians.

NSDC forged many new partnerships to train people, including joint ventures with the Bharti Group for 11.5 million, with Everonn for 15 million, with Future Group for seven million and with NIIT for another seven million. As of its last month’s report, they have approved 34 training projects and eight sector skills councils, covered 177 districts, set up 2,427 centres, touched 20 sectors and have already set up the foundation required to train 58.6 million people in 10 years.

In addition, under a special scheme, industry showed interest in joining hands with NSDC to induct youth from Jammu and Kashmir to train them in special skills at their facilities across India. Appointment of an industry veteran, former Tata Consultancy chief executive S. Ramadorai as an advisor to the prime minister in NSDC with the rank of a cabinet minister, is yet positive move this year.

Private participation extended beyond NSDC and many companies came forward. Fiat India Automobiles launched “Diksha” to provide educational avenues and technical training for youth. Axis Bank and Bandhan jointly launched a Rs.100-crore initiative on providing skills training and assets to the marginalized in West Bengal. Job creation remained a key challenge

The government could create only one million jobs against the target of 50 million jobs during the 11th Plan period that ends March 31, 2012. It has now set a enterprising target of creating 60 million jobs during the 12th Five Year Plan.

As a step towards this, the government unveiled a new Manufacturing Policy that promises 100 million new jobs. India is also on the path to dusting off the Apprentices Act to create an industry-driven apprenticeship regime.

2011 was the first year when the WorldSkills Competition got significant coverage in the media in India. A 16-member India contingent participated in the competition in London. While Indians did not win any medals, they surely showed the determination to become the skills reservoir of the world by participating in the event.

As we move to the next year, we appear to be in the right direction, even though we know we have a long way to go. Skills do not form the social fabric of India as yet. To have social currency in India, the acceptable tags are generally of an engineer, a doctor, a master of business administration. Skills, such as plumbing, electrician and masonry have little social currency, and this is evident even in our matrimonial advertisements. Changing the social perception about skills, therefore, is our big challenge for 2012. Creating a social norm called ‘Get Skilled’ should be one of our key focus areas.

In India we observe a complex amalgamation of factors relating to poverty, home environment, social pressures and so on to which teenage children are susceptible. The child who drops out of the schooling system due to any of the above factors can rarely be brought back into training. In plain economics, they are already in the unorganized job sector and leaving it for vocational training constitutes a significant opportunity cost for them and their families. In other words, even free training has a cost that many are unable or unwilling to bear.

What then are we to do if we are to make an impact on a set of problems of this magnitude?

“CATCH THEM YOUNG AND WATCH THEM GROW” should be our motto

  • The first place to start is undoubtedly the school where we can formally allow a parallel stream of vocation education in the 9th and 10th standards. (To promote vocational Training in schools, the Govt. has established a vocational cell within the CBSE, this scheme also helps to create a bridge between academia and industry) Students who are weak academically but have other strong abilities ought to be given a choice and counseled on this path, which will have academic elements, especially English and Math, but in a simpler form.Each school needs to set up labs / workshops for supporting training activities.
  • If this is not possible in the school premises due to space constraints, there should be a tie up with partners who are offering vocational training; essentially they could be NSDC partners who are entitled to offer vocational training.
  • A local network with industry, restaurants, retail establishments, and technical institutions/colleges in the area needs to be established so that an element of practical training can be brought into the curriculum and other resources leveraged.
  • Finally, a certificate could be issued by the state, the school or the training partner, once the student has successfully completed the vocational training requirements. This may not hold the same status of an SSLC but will be far better than letting the child drop out with nothing to show for his or her future.

The above model could use skilled people drawn from the extensive pool of unorganized labour as faculty. These skilled trainers can be made to go through a train the trainers program to fill gaps in their approach or methodology.

In the construction industry for example, we have many carpenters, plumbers etc., who are skilled and experienced, but not educated in the conventional sense. If these people are brought in as faculty and seconded to a vocational training faculty from the school who handles the formalization of the instruction, there could be a complete win-win for both the student and the trainer.

We are at a cusp situation where we need to face the challenge of Streamlining the Vocational Training Structure in order to reap the benefits of the huge potential of Human Resource in India.

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