• Centre giving top priority to Skill India Mission, many states following suit
• Aim is to empower youth of the country with skill sets which make them more employable and more productive in their work environment
The Central government has decided to set up National Council for Vocational Education and Training (NCVET) along with Skill Universities to give a big push to skilling ecosystem and accordingly Cabinet approved the decision two months ago.
This decision is part of “Skilled India”, a vision of the Centre and PM Narendra Modi to empower the youth of the country with skill sets which make them more employable and more productive in their work environment.
India is a country today with 65% of its youth in the working age group. By 2022, the strength of the Indian workforce is expected to rise to around 600 million. It is essential that this workforce receives adequate and relevant training in an evolving jobs and skills market. In addition to jobs within the country, as developed economies age, India can be in a prime position to utilize its surplus skilled manpower to address the global shortage, which is expected to be more than 50 million by 2020.
If ever there is a way to reap this demographic advantage, it has to be through skill development of the youth so that they add not only to their personal growth, but to the country’s economic growth as well.
As per PM Modi’s vision to create employment opportunities en masse and provide skilled human resource to cater to diverse job roles, the Ministry of Skill
Development and Entrepreneurship has been exploring plans to establish skills universities since the last three years. A Parliamentary Working Group was established in 2015 to draft a road map for setting up skill universities in India and among the main recommendations of the panel was giving authority to State governments on establishment of skill varsities’.
The Parliamentary panel, in its report, identified a number of challenges to establish skills universities. These include different operational models, issue of autonomy and the need for creating a brand for such universities.
The Sharada Prasad Committee, which was set up to review the functioning of the Sector Skill Councils in 2016, also recommended the creation of a National Vocational University to conduct research and taking care of training aspects and also become an affiliating university for all vocational education training centres.
Both these expert groups recognized the need for creating skills universities that would function differently from conventional universities to fulfill their primary objective of imparting quality and relevant skills education.
Dr Chukka Kondaiah, former Director General NIMSME and OSD (Officer on Special Duty) to Andhra Pradesh Government on Skill Development said that Andhra Pradesh was the first State in the country that realized the need to empower students on different skills as per their domain and the state government took steps accordingly.
“We are among the first in the country to establish AP Skill Development Corporation to give a big fillip to skill education. Also the government gave its nod to setting up of two exclusive skill universities in the state to cater to the student community. Infact government is partnering with HPCL to set up one Skill University jointly. Also, Century group has come forward to establish another skill varsity. While one is a state varsity the other one would be a private university,” Dr Kondaiah added.
Establishment of Skill Universities comes with its own set of challenges. The main challenge, however, has to be the student mobilization issue and how it should be addressed. Skilling is generally perceived to be inferior to the conventional education system and understandably parents and students are often reluctant to opt for vocational education as a career option. The tag of a ‘university’ attached to a vocational institution is expected to negate this problem.
However, in the current governance ecosystem of India, using the ‘university’ tag needs the approval of the University Grants Commission (UGC). Since a skills university will fall under the purview of respective State Skill Development Ministries, the UGC will have to make special provisions for its establishment as well as functioning. This should be done on priority basis.
It is essential for a skills university to conduct regular demand-assessment studies (preferably every five years) or refer to similar studies done elsewhere in the country to get a feel of industry needs. Accordingly, different courses must be started, modified or even discontinued. These efforts must be supplemented by state as well as central governments with periodic studies on skill-gaps in different sectors, future projections etc. A skills university must have the dynamism to follow such a demand-driven model or risk becoming irrelevant institutions churning out certfied, yet unemployable, students.
Telangana government has not set up its own private university but the government set up TASK (Telangana Academy of Skill and Knowledge) to impart skill training to engineering and technical students, as per industry needs. It has tied up with noted MNCs, firms, engineering colleges to equip final year students on soft skills, technical skills etc.
This mechanism helped thousands of students in getting jobs. TSCHE (Telangana State Council for Higher Education) chairman Prof T Papi Reddy stressed on more academy-industry collaboration so that students get practical experience and skills in addition to theoretical knowledge which they acquire in classrooms. Mere academic excellence would not be of big help in getting jobs in different domains except for white collar jobs.
“Theoretical foundation alone is not enough for students. Industry should open up and has to be more forthcoming in addressing the issue. However, off late many firms are not allowing internship programmes for engineering students. On one hand industry people say they are finding it difficult to get ready made industry suited graduates and on the other hand they are not opening doors for students for internship programmes unlike in the past,” Papi Reddy said.
experts want skills universities to be allowed to operate on a much wider territorial jurisdiction than conventional universities in order to successfully cater to demands within a State or province or even nationally, For example, Sri Vishwakarma Skill University, Haryana, must be allowed to deliver courses as per demand across the jurisdiction of Haryana. In addition, the university must not be obligated to follow the traditional system of college affiliations. Instead, it must have the autonomy to have course and/or sector-specific collaborations with existing industry training facilities and skill providers..
In terms of curriculum structure for different courses, a skills university must focus on general education, work-integration as well as lifelong training. While a minimum entry level of class 12 (or its equivalent) can be the approach, a long-term integration of aptitude tests to advice candidates needs to be evolved However, considering its current status, universities must be allowed to determine their own norms.
Unlike its conventional counterparts, classroom training cannot be a major component of skills universities. It must augment the larger narrative of work-based training that involves multiple stakeholders. A skills university must ensure that relevant industry partners become important stakeholders.
While the skills university must retain the right to approvals as well as certification, it need not always intricately involve itself in every facet of training that can be carried out by industry partners.
Also, UGC must allow these universities to follow a distinctive organisational and governance structure. Experts stated that a skills university must be allowed to deviate from hiring professors and assistant professors in the conventional hierarchical structure with set qualifications. Instead, sector-specific norms that focus on domain knowledge rather than academic qualifications must become the yardstick of choosing instructors either on a permanent or contractual basis. A skills university can follow the work-integrated training model or the institutional model or a combination of both depending on factors like seed capital, available land, objectives of the university etc. While an institutional model would mirror a conventional university in many ways, a work-integrated training model would involve the university working largely as a facilitator, assessor and certifier.
In terms of research, skills universities must have the wherewithal to accommodate scholars who can study new methods of pedagogies, evaluate existing programmes, suggest policy interventions etc. An alternative model of first incubating a smaller centre for vocational education and gradually expanding it to form a university can also be explored to achieve scale in a cost-effective and sustainable way.
Thus, the proposed skills universities must have their mandate clearly charted out so as to distinguish them from other universities under the all-pervasive ambit of the UGC.
Currently, state public universities across the country are suffering from mismanagement and paucity of funds. The administrative rot is so deep, that despite pumping in funds year after year, many of them are struggling to manage their affairs. Amidst all the chaos, lakhs of students are found to be at the receiving end every year. Authorities must ensure that a similar situation is not allowed in skills universities.
According to Sai Ravindra, CEO and Founder, Wissen Skills and Consulting, with 20-years experience in HR and Corporate sector, India (as per the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship) is growing slowly but surely at a pace to match the current and ever growing competition.
While the Centre has empowered states to ensure skill and its focus in every sector and place of the state, the process itself is in the skeleton stage and has not been able to define proper guidelines and methods.
“Skill will rise only when there are courses which deal with Technology (both disruptive and common), Non-Tech and General skill modules are given utmost importance and value. China , Japan and other countries are progressing with Skilling and we are still at a hatching stage. We must ensure these skills are imbibed and identified by the government. Need of Skill in India or in states is at 3.2% GDP. This is very negligible and close to nothing. It should be on an average of 60%. Say for example if 100 students pursuing conventional graduation are given skill training, at-least 60% of them would get a career opportunity,” Ravindra said.
Q. Skills or skill education was never heard prominently say ten to fifteen years ago. But, in present times having different skills in addition to academic excellence is key for a decent job. What are Centre’s initiatives and how it is collaborating with states or stakeholders on this subject?
The entire seriousness about skills started around 12 years ago when the late Prof CK Prahlad from University of Michigan started his work on India@75 and embarked on the goal of progressively skilling and upskilling 500 million people by the time independent India becomes 75 year old in 2022. We have come a long way since then with creation of NSDC and its training partners,
formation of Sector Skill Councils, strengthening of ITIs, creation of an industry-friendly apprenticeship regime, evolution of National Skills Qualification Framework, establishment of NSDA as a regulator, setting up of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras at district level, formation of state-level skill development missions, greater participation of industry in VET, recent creation of NCVET and a variety of such measures. While a lot had been achieved in the last 10 years, the enormity of the task is such that we still have a long way to go.
12 years ago, the late Prof CK Prahlad from University of Michigan started his work on India@75 and embarked on the goal of progressively skilling and upskilling 500 million people by 2022
Q. How skill education has evolved over the last five to ten years? How existing universities are able to equip their students with required skills?
There has been a 10-fold increase in number of people getting skilled annually as compared to the situation on the ground a decade ago. Skill universities have a major role to play as degrees are still quite aspirational in our country and they also provide vertical mobility options to VET students. Also, Skill Universities offer intensive and long term courses with modularity, credits based system, multiple entry-exit options and a compulsory apprenticeship or internship that increases the employ-ability of students.
Q. There are thousands of courses in skills like technology-based, non-technology based, generic, disruptive technology etc. Elaborate on India’s work to make things simpler so that concerned students get to learn these skills.
SSCs are working on development of Industry 4.0 relevant QPs and NOSs to include subjects like Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Robotics, Big Data & Analytics, etc. This is being done with the help of experts, consultants along with knowledge inputs from overseas.