By Venguswamy Ramaswamy
Several disruptive forces are reshaping the future of work and organisations are working to adapt to the challenges posed by the fourth Industrial Revolution. Innovative technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, and automation of tasks are redefining the current roles and job definitions and are creating new opportunities for all. Are we ready? 2.4%, that’s how many technical workers are reported to be adequately trained or certified in their skills across India. That’s a massive shortfall considering the potential for scaling a workforce that India possesses, it’s our primary economic advantage.
Skills, particularly in the sphere of vocational learning, are the backbone of a country’s goals for future and sustainable prosperity. A country like India, where millions of young people each year try to seek work, needs enough educational resources. The first requirement is to create a vast capacity across the country to enable the delivery of vocational education. The second is for the vocational institutions and skill providers to impart a variety of short and long-term high impact training programs. This will help them to be job-ready and become employable in specific sectors and will allow them to use their creative potential for the country’s overall growth.
Today, several jobs are getting obsolete with fast-changing technologies and the world is increasingly in need of unconventional human resources. This need can be met by educating the students through a variety of vocational training modules. Social organisations and vocational institutions will play a pivotal role in skilling, upskilling, and reskilling the Indian youth. However, in a developing and highly populated nation like India, the first step in bridging the skill gap would be to empower vocational educators and create models that will allow them to teach students with future-ready skills.
The following five pillars can lay the foundation for empowering the vocational educators
Empowered Educators: We must make it a priority to empower educators with all the resources needed to deliver a high impact vocational education. This will include standard content, industry job expectations, hardware and software access, and senior mentors for continuous guidance. Now that the world is rapidly adopting digital technology, we must empower trainers with digital skill competencies. The ability to teach a skill and to provide a continuous stream of guidance throughout a structured vocation-based syllabus is of paramount importance for the success of any vocational training program.
Country-wide Capacity: It is critical to developing vocational skill educators across the districts of the country. We must choose specific skill areas and place the educators to be locally available to further guide the skill seekers. The concentration of skilled educators in a few districts will not help us meet the needs of the country. We should aim and ensure no skill seeker anywhere in the country is left behind for a lack of skilled educators in the region. To this, we need Ninja educators who can rapidly develop other educators and spread the skill in adjacent regions. This problem of faculty shortage is one faced by conventional education as well. Hence, we need to develop the idea of shared educators with experts for guidance.
Infrastructure Integration: The quality of vocational education will largely depend on the hours spent on learning by doing. For this, infrastructure integration for learning, practice and assessment relevant to every skill is a key requirement. The only way to achieve this at speed is for us to agree and drive shared infrastructure usage in the country. The cost of dedicated infrastructure by every skill provider is prohibitive and hence we should enable a pay-per-use model for infrastructure and aggregate the demand for the same. Every vocational educator must have easy access to infrastructure and leverage the same to educate the skill seekers. Today, in the healthcare system, we see doctors leveraging multiple hospital infrastructures to deliver services to their patients. There are certain parallels we can draw and make the skill educators leverage common infrastructure across the country to deliver impactful vocational lessons to their skill seekers.
Academic Assimilation: The fastest route to achieve rapid progress in vocational education is to assimilate it with the current academic education. Until we keep vocational education away from mainstream academic education, we will not see widespread adoption. We must remove the hard separation between vocational and mainstream academic education. The ideal way for better academic understanding would be to include vocational education in it and contextualise learning through live examples and practical-based training methodologies. This will also give a boost to the efforts put forth by the vocational institutions in normalising vocational education.
Rewards and recognitions: Skill India hosts the Annual Kaushalacharya awards, a Government of India initiative on the occasion of Teachers’ day to encourage trainers. The educators are felicitated for outstanding contributions, including experts from reputed Corporates. Similar initiatives like the Annual Kaushalacharya competitions can be hosted for educators specific to regional, national, and global skills in the field of vocational education. This will act as a reinforcement for the educators to bring the difference.
To add to this, the success of vocational training is also a responsibility that extends far beyond legislation and the system of vocational education. It extends to industry and society at large as well. Companies and players in the economy must act to formalise the need for certifications as well as vocational education to fill the employment roles that are required to be filled. Society’s responsibility extends to accepting the value of vocational training as a necessity and allocating to it the same level of viability and respect as is seen with academic education. As companies accept these changes to fill the roles they need to, not only will the employability of vocational trainees increase, but so will their standards of living and the reputation of any given vocation.
The author is global head TCS iON.