Vocational skills is the one solution that everyone agrees to for solving many of our problems like skill deficit, slow economic growth, low enterprise productivity, poor workforce efficiency, career development, life satisfaction and even crime reduction.
But just any vocational education or training programme will be futile if we do not enable the stream with industry-oriented curriculum, better infrastructure, improved teaching methods and quality teachers. For a nation that aims to skill 40 crore youth by 2022, we will require over 10 lakh skilled and certified teachers year on year. So where do we get these teachers from?
To develop skilled vocational teachers, we need an environment that fosters teaching and learning of vocational education. While there are no specific courses mandated for a vocational teacher, having certain attributes will have a positive impact. To be a vocational teacher, one needs to have good organisational abilities, fine communication and presentation skills, and sound decision-making expertise. The ability to use the right pedagogy is essential. Technical acumen and work experience in a speciality subject will make the vocational teacher more desirable.
Provide adequate infrastructure. The trainer must have access to enough tools and equipment, and raw material. Enough workshops, laboratories, classrooms should be provided to enable students acquire practical experience. For example, if we are training teachers on fabrication, fitting & assembly for a manufacturing unit, then the schools need to have adequate simulators and tools such as external micrometers, vernier caliper, surface finish equipment, rules, squares, caliper thread gauges, height gauges, hand saw, drilling machines, power tools. This can help teachers get enough practise before they start teaching. If a teacher needs to be skilled and certified in a sector such as beauty & wellness, then the infrastructure should be a replica of a beauty parlour or a spa.
Provide funds. Proper funding is a prerequisite for success in creating an enabling environment in the teaching and learning of vocational and technical education. Allocation of budgets to development of vocational teachers is crucial for the success of our skilling initiatives. MSDE, NSDC, central or state ministries and industry should set aside a budget for these teacher training programmes. Can CSR be another route to funding?
Improvise signalling value of vocational skilling. In countries like Austria and Germany, over 40% of the workforce comes through vocational skilling route. But in India it is perceived as something that is for others’ children, calling for a change in mindset both at the student as well as at the industry level. All stakeholders must be fully aligned to the vocational skilling route and present a roadmap for trainers taking up vocational teaching as a career. A positive attitude towards vocational education will enhance the interest of student enrolling into a programme. A BVoc degree can change the outlook many have.
Improved training quality. This will require the curriculum to include vocational and technical entrepreneurship skills, with emphasis on acquisition of practical knowledge and skills rather than theory and certification. Competency acquisition and proficiency testing should be the core of the programme. Another area of focus during training is that vocational education graduates are expected to possess some entrepreneurial skills as well, such that they can enable their students to become entrepreneurs.
Continuous learning and skills upgrade. According to Gerhard Fischer, director of the Center for LifeLong Learning & Design at the University of Colorado, “Lifelong learning is an essential challenge for inventing the future of our societies; it is a necessity rather than a luxury to be considered. It is a mindset and a habit for people to acquire.” Teachers should be given the flexibility and resources for continuous learning, only then can they improve teaching.
Industry partnerships. We need to create closer collaboration between teacher training institutes and industry. This will encourage trainers to gain industry experience and bring that to teaching practices. There should be flexible career paths between industry and trainer institutes.
The author is senior vice-president, TeamLease Services