By Shantanu Rooj & Vikrant Pande
Raushan Jha, a distance education student at a university in Bihar, realised early that merely a graduation degree was not enough to get him a respectable job. After a few career counselling sessions at the university, he decided to join a leading microfinance company as an apprentice, while pursuing his degree. The university provided him the foundation, and he got to learn a lot more at his on-the-job classroom. The apprenticeship is giving him an opportunity to apply his learnings to his day-to-day work, gain huge amount of work experience, and get invaluable mentorship from his supervisors. Needless to say, by the time Jha graduates from his university, he would have had a good three years of work experience that will make him eligible to stay in his job!
This is not unique to Jha; most students who have undergone on-the-job training through an apprenticeship programme will be at an advantageous position in the job market. Apprenticeship-linked degree programmes have the potential to radically alter the relationship between higher education providers, vocational education, students and employers. These provide students with a university-level qualification and employment experience, and allow them to share the cost of their education with employers. The stipend earned through apprenticeship gives financially weaker candidates the opportunity to access education that might have previously been unavailable to them.
As labour market evolves, the notion of a middle-skill job that someone can walk into straight out of college is becoming a thing of the past. Students will need to build role-specific skills and earn industry exposure before they qualify to apply for their first job. More and more traditional universities are now recognising the same. They are realising that the age-old institute enthusiasm for ‘academic’ subjects has produced too many graduates, but not enough recruitable workforce. Universities are negotiating arrangements with companies for co-creation of role-based skill training programmes, apprenticeship opportunities for students, and placements for those completing on-the-job training and corresponding assessments.
The structure works very well for the industry, especially BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance), which is suffering from high attrition and shortfall of trained manpower. Several NBFCs, microfinance companies, insurance companies and banks are considering this channel as their dependable people supply chain. Students, trained early on in their formative years, are more likely to perform better and stay in their job for a longer duration.
Apprenticeship programmes seeded inside universities blend theoretical and practical learning for students. Owing to the geographical spread of universities, through their affiliated colleges and distance education, these programmes also have a unique advantage—the ability to train a large number of students spread across smaller towns and villages alike.
The next phase is University 4.0, where learning will be collaborative (institute, industry, students), multi-modal (online, on-site, on-campus, on-the-job) and modular (continuum between degree, diploma and certificate), and will be driven by purpose—which, in most cases, is employment. It will also be the one that will assist the growth of industries, including BFSI.
Shantanu Rooj is CEO, SchoolGuru; Vikrant Pande is president, Northern Arc Foundation