Digital avenues to pave the way for bridging the skill gap

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March 16, 2015 12:08 AM

The percentage of skilled youth in the workforce is less than 5% in India and as has been stressed by the government and the industry alike...

The percentage of skilled youth in the workforce is less than 5% in India and as has been stressed by the government and the industry alike, we have a long way to go to address the skill gap and be in a position of advantage to reap the benefit of demographic dividend that the country enjoys. India is  set to become the largest contributor to the global workforce. According to a CRISIL report, India’s working population is likely to increase from 749 million in 2010 to 962 million in 2030.

The recognition of the value addition skills bring to the resource pool has resulted in defining job roles pertinent to the industry, creating standards in curriculum framework, certification, alignment with National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) and providing training as per this framework. However the quantum and quality of resources required to meet the scale and the speed at which the objectives are to be met leave us baffled at the feasibility. The cost and the time it would take for skilling 500 million youth of this country and most importantly the pool of trainers required are posing huge challenges to the policy planners.

The idea of using technology for delivering training has been considered in the past and has been not embraced enthusiastically on account of several reasons. These include the discomfort of trainers and the trainees to train without the physical presence of each other, high initial investment, limitations of technology led training in delivering training in technical subjects or where physical acumen is required, ability to personalise training and assessment methods to determine the competencies of the learners.

It is true that these challenges could limit the use of technology led learning delivery platform. However given the criticality of the need to address the skill gap and the geographical dispersion of the youth in the country, the innovative blend of technology led delivery along with classroom training and apprenticeship would be the only possible method to meet the objectives. Hence it is important to conceptualise the technology solution that can adapt to the needs of skilling in the Indian context.

The first important component of the technology solution in the context of dissemination of learning  is the content itself. Content creation for non technical subjects should be relatively easy. What is important is to ensure that there are good mock tests and fine tuned assessments that help in highlighting areas of improvement. Using the gaming and simulation techniques now available, content for technical subjects could be developed for training using technology platforms. Creating such content requires a team of experts drawn from technical domain who could work with pedagogy specialists as well as content designers. Once the candidates get to understand the basic concepts, using the assessments it should be possible to ascertain the proficiency levels and later could be provided with apprenticeship opportunity to complete the learning cycle. Experts in a given subject could connect with learners via virtual classroom using technologies such as Cisco’s CEED platform thereby bringing in the human touch and connectedness to motivate the learners.

The next important dimension that requires to be addressed is the access to devices and the mobility of the learners. While designing the content, it is therefore important to ensure that content is responsive and adaptable. This is significant in the Indian context as over the next few years with the momentum for digital India picking up and internet access becoming feasible in the nook and the corner of the country, devices of various kinds and forms used by the citizens that would be connected to the digital platform should be able to access such training sessions with ease. Therefore solutions that can seamlessly work both on campus and off campus and content that can motivate the learner with well thought out design features would be the key to the success for remote and self paced learning.

The digital methods of imparting skills training in ITIs, polytechnics and vocational training institutions could take advantage of real time training support from the industries through connected digital platforms and also provide learners exposure to shop floor environment and working of expensive machinery and equipments. Governments and educational institutions have to pave the way for technology led learning to become the backbone for imparting training and helping trainers and learners adopt blended learning for skilling, develop relevant pedagogy and orient them to create appropriate assessment techniques. Apprenticeship would be integral to making this model of skilling a success as theoretical concepts learned through simulated digital content could be practised and experienced. Scale, speed, quality and mass customisation can be achieved by imaginative use of technology in training delivery.  It is time educational institutions get ready to embark on the digital journey and rewrite India’s credentials in skills.

The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company

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