The government announced several plans for the education and skilling sector in 2014, including increase of education loans, increased focus on skilling through PPPs and better accreditation of vocational training courses to encourage more enrolments. Amidst speculations and apprehensions, people are hoping for burgeoning job opportunities across public and private sectors. If 2014 was a year of planning, 2015 should be the year of execution.
Scaling up vocational skilling: It is evident from the large number of schemes pertaining to vocational skilling that the government is taking it very seriously. We can expect a continued patronage to the sector in the upcoming Budget in form of increased expenditure and higher involvement of public-private partnership. Hopefully, initiatives such as Skill India will succeed in penetrating the urban youth to reach rural and semi-urban population where majority of our population still resides. Involving private sectors for funds and infrastructure and NGOs for their reach in such communities can help make this happen. From the supply side, there are not enough enrolments due to lack of a proper structure and accreditation system. Vocational training has failed to gain that respect amongst the youth and though HRD’s announcement of setting up a unified Vocational Training University will help bridge this gap and also ensure a quality check on the kind of trainings being imparted, there needs to be collaboration with the industry and job markets to ensure that those trained are gainfully employed. Only results, which in this case are employment, can attract students to such programmes. Perhaps Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative can be linked to such programmes to create a demand-supply chain in the economy.
Linking education to skilling: Vocational training or any skill initiative cannot succeed in isolation from education. The recently released ASER report clearly shows how our primary education system has failed to improve quality and quantity of school education being imparted at rural, government schools. These school children will be our future workforce and if the number of dropouts is so huge, we will be faced with a crisis. We need an education system aligned with skills that can help candidates to be employable and skilled by the time they pass out. At the same time, the quality and ratio of trainer/teachers need to be at par, who can build interest and knowledge in their candidates. Hopefully, the Budget will devote more funds to improve enrolment and quality of education along with some plan on improving the quality of teachers as well.
Micro-entrepreneurship: Perhaps we are still unaware of the huge power that micro-entrepreneurship holds for a nation like ours. Given that over 75% of our economy still runs on the basis of micro-economies who make up our informal sector, we need some concrete plans in place to give structure to it. Consider the large number of dropouts who may not be skilled enough to get employment or the number of rural women who could benefit from micro-entrepreneurship trainings. If the government ties up with NGOs and other private players to give micro-entrepreneurship trainings to those who want to start something of their own and link it with micro-financing companies, it can help uplift whole communities. For the existing micro-entrepreneurs in our informal sector, the government could form a special committee to guide and train them to be optimised and more organised which will help our economy and GDP in the long run.
Embracing technology: The present generation is born in the age of technology and will respond much better if internet and m-learning are used as tools of learning. These technologies have high portability, small size and low price, and can reach out to large numbers at once. If applications can be developed to make learning possible through personal phones, it is the easiest and cheapest way to educate millions of youth across the globe. The upcoming Budget should reflect this inclination by way of investment in the sector, giving equal accreditation to such online courses or incentives for start-ups working on apps, etc.
The aim of turning India into a skilled economy and the manufacturing hub of the world could become a reality if practical and achievable steps are taken in this Budget.
The author is chief mentor of Viztar International, a business consulting and training organisation
By Sachin Adhikari