The upcoming Union Budget should strictly look at augmenting existing policies in education and skilling, and also increase fund allocation for skill development initiatives.
By Neeti Sharma
Budget 2019: India has one of the youngest populations in an otherwise ageing world—105 million first-time job seekers will enter the labour market by 2022, and yet 43% of our youth are not in employment, education or training. India does not have an unemployment challenge; the problem is wages as well as dearth of skilled talent. With the new term of the government, the focus has to be on skilling. A larger focus also needs to be in the area of improvising productivity of our people. Making the workforce proficient in skills requires a whole new approach to education, and for that blended learning is the key. An integrated system emphasising on both education and vocational skills is crucial, and this should involve the role of multiple classrooms that will help in creating a seamless learning experience.
Vocational skills should be the primary area of concern for the new government. The upcoming Union Budget should strictly look at augmenting existing policies in education and skilling, and also increase fund allocation for skill development initiatives. Some of the essential elements to be kept in consideration for strengthening the current system are:
Upward mobility and degree connectivity: Offer degree connectivity to students having 10+2 from any higher secondary board of education as well as to those having 10+2 year ITI in relevant trade. Students should have the option to enrol for regular university programmes, work-based learning (hybrid), or part-time programmes (for working professionals). The four qualification corridors can be ‘certificate’, ‘diploma’, ‘advanced diploma’ and ‘degree’ in one or more vocational skills educational space. Also build flexibility that recognises work-based learning, on-the-job training, online learning, along with on-campus and on-site learning. Universities must provide credits leading to degrees in vocational skilling and other forms of blended learning.
Continuous learning for working professionals: For this, educational institutes should assess learner performance continuously over the duration of each semester. The examination system should be designed to assess a learner’s progress systematically across all the classrooms. Both the industry and the government should provide upskilling on existing skill sets and provide reskilling for newer job roles. The industry should identify the upskilling/reskilling needs and provide the necessary resources, and the government should either subsidise or reimburse some form of learning and certification.
Changing roles of universities: The world of work we are preparing students for is rapidly changing, and many jobs are becoming redundant. Universities need to prepare students not just to earn a degree, but also to make them employable, job and wage ready. Universities should be able to provide on-demand learning. This would be possible with increased adoption of technology in the learning process.
Integrated apprenticeship: Apprentices, while learning on the job, should also be provided with on-site/online learning, ultimately leading them towards credits and certifications. Work-based learning will create a higher productive workforce, thereby reducing attrition and the cost of hiring for employers. A well-equipped apprentice scheme will serve the purpose of both the government (by providing sustainable jobs) and the industry (by providing a skilled and productive workforce).
Many developments have taken place in the field of education, apprenticeships and vocational education to improve the current system. The proposed new education policy by Dr K Kasturirangan committee is a step in this direction. The policy recommends big changes by breaking down educational institutions into three categories: One that focuses on world-class research, the second that focuses on teaching along with research, and the third that will focus on undergraduate education. Multiple entry and exit corridors have been recommended for all learners, and instead of making the academic process aimed at just examinations, the proposed policy aims at creating a learner-centric process. But the policy should include vocational skill development as part of the academic curriculum, so that learners are better prepared before entering the labour market. Moreover, the policy should also introduce higher flexibility that will allow learners to select subjects based on their learning ability and interests, rather than the current format of ‘one size fits all’. This way, the learner will be able to develop the skill sets while earning a degree.
We need to find an effective way to skill, upskill and reskill our youth before they enter the market, and provide them with a lifelong learning path. This is beneficial not just for employees, but will also be rewarding for the industry.
(The author is senior vice-president, TeamLease Services)