We can proudly say that the education sector in India is well developed and mature today. The nation’s educational infrastructure offers a well established system of primary, secondary and higher education.
However, there is a huge gap between the numbers of those who are educated and those who are gainfully employed. Simply urging young people to get an education is not enough. Too often that education does not help them land a job. But to boost employment and employability, India must capitalize on it’s youth for growth in skills based education sector.
A person may be knowledgeable but not skilled enough for a particular job. The country today is teeming with fresh graduates who are unfit for employment because of lack of requisite skills. Vocation-based training and emphasis on enhancing skills may bridge this gap between education and employment.
The majority of jobs are in the skill sector. India has a 480 million plus workforce, which can be the driving force behind a global skills-based economy. We must prioritize skills-based learning and target all those in the labour force, including the fresh graduates who are entering the labour market for the first time.
The Indian industry is facing a huge lack of skilled manpower. A whopping 67% of Indian employers are trying to find skilled manpower to meet their requirements. It is after all skilled manpower that builds, highways, railroads, malls and buildings. Skilled welders, masons, carpenters, are very much required. While manpower for mere physical labour is easily available skilled manpower is severely lacking.
About ten years ago India’s huge population was perceived to be the cause of all it’s problems. Not so today. India’s population is now considered to be it’s biggest asset and is expected to be a source of competitive advantage, if only we can make it a skilled one.
The best point of the demographics is that our population is primarily young. Of its more than 1.26 billion-strong population, close to 600 million are below the age of 35. If we can gainfully and effectively capitalize on the sheer population of young people that we have, it can bring us great returns, economic growth and prosperity. But this can only happen if we can successfully carry out a countrywide vocational or skills education programme.
International studies have indicated that by 2020, the western world will be deficient in skilled manpower to the tune of 50 million people. India is probably the only country that will be able to supply this huge demand. So, it is not an unlikely scenario that in the future our largest export will be skilled manpower.
At the moment however, National Service Scheme data shows a serious lack of skills training. In the 15-29 age group, only two per cent have undergone any sort of formal vocational training. This is much lower as compared to other developing countries. Government has launched several schemes and skill universities are being set up, but contrary to the population, it is not enough.
But still in a bid to meet this skills deficit, the Government of India has launched various schemes to promote vocational education. This it is doing by allocating huge public funds for skills education. It has also formulated a National Policy on Skill Development in 2009. It has enabled institutions such as Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development and National Skill Development Corporation.
The current capacity of the skill development programs is 3.1 million. The National Skill Development Corporation has an ambition of skilling 78 million Indians in the next ten years. However, to achieve this goal, of having a robust skills training and certification system for a billion plus people country is a huge, huge task. Initiatives for skill development should aim to both cater to the demand and also create the demand.
Skill-based training is going to be the backbone of the Make-in-India initiative too and the best way to ensure that vocational training serves its intended purpose is through PPP i.e., private and public collaboration. For instance, Aptech would attempt to train more than 2.33 million people nationwide over a period of 10 years in sectors such as banking, financial services, insurance, entertainment, organised retail, etc.
The time is right to redefine quality education in the developing world. About 1.3 million schools operate in India where over 227 million students are enrolled. The new educational model would shift the goal of schooling away from traditional learning toward making a positive impact on the economic and social well-being of students and their communities through promoting skills. This model requires significant changes in both content and teaching methods.
Like any form of education or training, it is best if vocational education starts early in the formative years. Hence, vocational courses must be introduced in mainstream school curricula across all school boards.
Skill-based education is most appropriate from Class VIII onward. It could actually even begin earlier to prevent school dropouts. Vocational training in schools helps push up student’s interest, attendance rates and encourage deeper participation from students.
Skill based knowledge is necessary but it doesn’t mean that knowledge isn’t important. Any skills taught would have to be taught through a medium which would naturally include knowledge of the subject.
From a teachers point of view, it changes the way lesson planning is done. Whereas before the focus would have been on how they could teach the class about a certain topic, skills based learning means that the focus is on how to help the children develop and learn certain skills.
While the conventional education structure is under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, industry oriented training and education is supervised by the Ministry of Labor and Employment. Industrial Training Institute and other vocational education programs are maintained under this ministry.
Industrial Training Institutes and Industrial Training Centers are the primary faculties for Vocational Training. Currently, about 6,800 schools enrol 4,00,000 students in vocational education schemes. This means that less than 40 per cent of their total student capacity is utilised for skills training. What is the cause of that?
Perhaps vocational education is just not motivating enough for learners. Maybe there is some kind of stigma or status factor that needs to be addressed. Perhaps we need to educate children on concepts such as the dignity of labour, along with skills.
Other factors that create barriers to the acquisition of skills are misconceptions that only dropouts go in for vocational training. Youngsters who do not have the required educational qualifications can be barred from seeking to enhance their skills. Poor availability of institutes and lack of infra-structure can be a serious hindrance.
Education is not just the acquiring of information but the training of the mind and body to be able to perform certain tasks well. Physical education, yoga, housekeeping, electrical mechanics, car mechanics, AC repairs, airplane flying, driving, carpentry, health workers, plumbers, stitching, embroidery, painting, plumbing, are all skill based occupations. These must be given their due importance. After all the aim of any education is to make a person capable of working, earning and living a life of dignity.
Acquiring these skills could enrich a person’s life, lift him or her out of poverty and thus make a significant difference in the quality of their lives.
Skill-based education, if promoted seriously, can empower our huge, unemployed labour force and help India emerge as key contributor to a global skills based economy enriching itself in the bargain.