Today, the idea that in order to skill India, we must formalise the informally self-learned sector, has gained much momentum and it is not hard to see why. The large youth population that we have often equated with a demographic dividend, needs something tangible to be employable not just in India but across the world.
Even in a developed country like France, a January 2021 opinion survey released by Centre Info has cited data to say that since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, nearly half of the respondents think they will change jobs in the more or less long term (49%) and a third (33%) in the next two years. Over 1,626 workers aged 18 or older took part in the online survey and the idea that emerged was that vocational training is more essential than ever for a stable professional future. Some 42% of respondents were worried about the pace at which their profession is changing and many think they need professional guidance and training in order to remain employable. Nearly 48% respondents also planned to undergo training over the next 12 months as vocational retraining schemes are increasingly being used to make a career transition.
In India, there exists a self-learning sector that is capable of producing entrepreneurs but India’s demographic and economic complexities need a strategised and comprehensive approach. We need to establish synergetic relationships between industries and educational organisations to ensure that students do not just get an insight into the demands of different vocations but also skills that are relevant to the market.
The biggest issue today is that there is a huge gap between conceptual and practical learning and when students leave college, they have degrees in science or commerce, or arts and do not really know how to apply their knowledge to the constantly evolving demands of the job market.
Early vocational training cannot only give them clarity about a field but set the stage for more advanced technical and practical learning. Moreover, all students have different abilities that our system does not often encourage or recognise. This is where Career and Technical Education (CTE) based vocational education can help.
The world increasingly needs an unconventional workforce and we can cater to this need by skilling our youth via diversified vocational training modules that teach them about healthcare, applied sciences, commerce, banking and finance, computer technology, trade and tourism, retail management, BPO, hospitality, and traditional crafts.
Computer specialists, nuclear technicians, fashion designers, electricians, cardiovascular technologists and web developers are also in high demand across the world so why not start preparing our young early for these opportunities?
That does not mean that conventional schooling is totally obsolete. Apart from practical skills, we also need to cultivate an appreciation for human values, for language, the arts, an understanding of the environment and to cultivate empathy. Evolving models of education do work hard to achieve a more organic and sensitive way of teaching and learning.
Education modules that are thought and action based will make our youth not just employable citizens but wholesome humans. But yes, rote learning does not serve any purpose anymore. Hands-on training helps students to not just apply their expertise practically in a specific field but grow independent at a young age.
Vocational education can also enhance the quality of life and meet the economic needs of a largely unskilled populace and turn it into a human resource. It can help our unlettered adult population to rise above their circumstances.
We are living in an information age for sure, but we cannot grow in one area and ignore the other. We cannot ignore that a large section of our population struggles to meet even basic needs. To uplift our disadvantaged citizens, we must create infrastructures where they can access skills and training to change their life.
In a world where digital divides and economic disparity push children into underpaid and exploitative manual labour early, we need to create a model of education that serves all our citizens and not just a few. Even those who may have missed out on a college degree because of social and economic inequity, deserve a chance to learn and earn. With age being no consideration, vocational education provides an option to even elders who may have missed out on an opportunity to study. Vocational courses are also an easy and cheaper alternative for students who do not want to take a three-year degree course.
Skilling further empowers those individuals to be self-employed with dignity who may otherwise have had to look for employment in saturated sectors. A skilled workforce is also a huge draw for foreign investors who may want to set up businesses in India.
Additionally, pre-skilled employees save companies the cost spent in training. The point being that we must connect education with the variables of the labour market in a developing country like ours. We can no longer afford our education system to be in an oblivious bubble that is disconnected from reality.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.)