The growing disconnect between higher education and industry requirement in India is a matter of grave concern. Generations have graduated from our universities aspiring for good jobs, however, their lack of requisite skills stands in the way of getting a good break. On the other hand, unemployment is on the rise. One of the primary reasons behind it is, the lack of understanding about market requirement among those framing our curriculum.One of the biggest challenges of education is gearing the societal needs. I believe our greatest need in the present era is to enhance skill and increase productivity. And this function of education can be easily achieved by giving it a strong vocational thrust.
The Growing Demand
Vocational education refers to a system or course of study which prepares individuals for jobs, based on manual or practical activities. It is closely related to the traditional apprenticeship system of learning. Now a days, vocational education has diversified to include many fields of study and the demand for vocational professionals is more than ever before, not just in India, but the across the globe.
Way back in the sixties, the Indian Education Commission pointed out that vocationalisation can bring education into closer relationship with productivity. It recommended giving a strong vocational slant to secondary education and increasing the emphasis on agricultural and technological education at university stage. Later, the National Policy on Education (1986) advocated the introduction of systematic, well-planned and rigorously-implemented programmes of vocational education.
Several Advantages of the Courses
Educationists agree that in addition to acquisition of knowledge, development of skills for different kinds of jobs needs to be a strong component of our educational curriculum. It has many pluses – it can reduce unemployment, increase productivity and bring about economic prosperity. Besides, choosing a vocation in accordance with one’s interests and aptitudes ensures better output and satisfaction which goes a long way in instilling a sense of security and usefulness among the youth, making them better employees and better citizens.
A good mix of academic teaching and vocational training is what is needed to make India the skill capital of the world. The advantage that we have in this is the demographics. By focussing on vocationalisation, India with the highest young population in the world can become the hub of the world’s skilled workforce. The attempt should be to train and connect prospective employees with multiple employers worldwide.
Diverse Fields in Industry
Industry relevant, skill-based training and education is the need of the hour. Integrating vocational training with mainstream education can provide immense value. Private vocational training institutes can play a big role here. And vocational education need not be confined to the manual sphere. It could be related to any vocation or industry– retail, tourism, cosmetology, or traditional crafts and collage industry. For instance, good communication and soft skills are part of the job requirement everywhere in the world today. Vocational training institutes can focus on this and help students master soft skills to increase their market value. From expanding their business vocabulary to increasing their speaking skills, writing customized e-mails for clients, and preparing interesting PowerPoint presentation, all these can be taught at any Indian vocational training institutes and marketed to the world. Proper coordination between industry and vocational Institutes can help in tapping the right potential and create an industry-ready workforce not just for India, but for world market. Accreditations and certifications can add value to new entrants to the job market.
Current Scenario of Vocational Education
Unfortunately, so far we have not made the right move in this direction. Outdated curriculum, obsolete vocations (such as book-binding and welding in an age of electronics), lack of teacher training in advanced technology and not to ignore, people’s belief that vocational education is inferior education, is part of the reason. At present, the vocational system is not in line with industry needs and doesn’t emphasise much on academic skills, resulting in lower upward mobility. There is also lack of opportunities for skill up-gradation and no clear provision of certifications and degrees for the unorganised/informal sector.
Imparting Proper Training from Young Age
What we need is expansion of vocational education right from school with diversified courses and facilities for counselling and guidance in choosing the right course in line with students’ interest and aptitude.The country, indeed the world, needs skilled workers in a wide range of industries. Finding something that matches one’s talents — whether it is operating computers or making artefacts — and getting trained in that field is important.
Action, Not Platitudes
There ought to be proper administration of vocational education by various state governments, as well as, better co-ordination between different state departments and agencies. What is required is action, not pious pronouncements. Of late, courses in computer programming and electronics have started as part of governments’ skill development programmes. They need to be systematised and accelerated. At present, nearly 80 percent of new entrants to the country’s workforce get little or no opportunity for skills education. Merely 2.5 percent of our workforce is exposed to formal vocational training. Enrolling in a vocation training institute or hands-on skill training course can be of great help to candidates looking out for employment opportunities. A number of government agencies and private institutes are imparting skill education in India, but there is little coordination between them. Companies like ICA Edu Skills are partnering with various state and Central government departments in offering skill building programmes for the country’s potential workforce in diverse sectors including agriculture, IT-ITES, retail, telecom, banking, accounting, finance etc.
What is the Way Forward?
Technological development in recent years, along with the integration of new technologies in all fields is rapidly changing the employment landscape of the country. In these times of fast-paced changes, we need to develop innovative approaches and ideas to foster vocational learning and increase employability. The aim of all vocational institutions should be to produce well-equipped professionals, capable of navigating this fast-changing world and its emerging challenges, successfully. Companies could take on vocational education as part of Corporate Social Responsibility and work with government organizations under Public Private Partnership to promote vocational education. India can easily become the skill capital of the world by investing more in vocational education.