Importance Of Infrastructure For Vocational Skilling

Vocational skilling infrastructure is a combination of place, time and money and should be seen to address the trinity of cost, quality and scale in vocational skilling.

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Skills Development has now been accepted as a critical requirement for developing employability and enhancing productivity amongst job seekers in India. With a large number of youth entering the labour markets monthly, it is imperative to develop their skill sets and make them employable before they join their first job. The Government of India is the single largest funder for Skills Development in the country. Reskilling and Up-skilling of existing workforce is a growing need and companies are spending their time, effort and budgets in this direction.

To address India’s skills deficit and increase employability, we need to focus on industry relevant education, vocational skills embedded within the curriculum and continuous learning. This coupled with on-the-job learning will improve employability and productivity of our workforce. And to be able to do so, an ecosystem needs to be developed which comprises of Physical and Digital Infrastructure, Quality of Learning, Relevant Curriculum, Financing, Signalling Value. Let’s look at how each of these components will be important as infrastructure for vocational skills. :

Physical Infrastructure: A large part of vocational skilling costs are towards physical infrastructure – training centers. State and Central governments control large chunks of buildings and land that could be put into a common asset bank, which could then be made available for training by the private sector on long leases at less the market rate rents. Obviously, all these leases must be structured as conditional on training outcomes.

Digital Infrastructure: As much as we need physical infrastructure for skilling, using technology and developing digital infrastructure will help scale the vocational skilling programs. We need to develop a scalable, agile and a seamless skilling ecosystem on a digital platform.

Quality of Teachers: Teaching a Vocational skill is one of the most complicated jobs today. It demands broad knowledge of subject matter, curriculum, and standards; enthusiasm, a caring attitude, and a love of skilling; knowledge of discipline and classroom management techniques; and a desire to make a difference in the lives of young people. With all these qualities required, trainers are required to be far more prepared. Their skills need to be upgraded constantly and they need to be supported on all necessary areas required of them.

Relevant Curriculum: The current pace of industry and labour market changes mean that some curriculum is outdated much before a student completes his / her education. Besides the domain skills, industry also looks at soft skills, team building, values and attitude of an individual at the time of hiring. Upgrading curriculum and keeping up with the changes is required of the Institutes. Also, the curriculum needs to be made in collaboration with the Industry, and if possible, joint certifications / degrees between the Academic Institutes and Industry. 

Financing: Making government money available for private delivery is difficult to not only manage but also monitor its usage and efficiency. It is one of the key ways to create competition and gather information about outcomes but cannot be the only route to financing vocational skills.  We need to have more industries participate in the workforce learning process, and also have learners finance themselves. This can be later refunded or reimbursed, should there be a need. Multiple buckets of financing are needed for us to create scale in vocational skilling. 

Signalling Value: A vocational skill is always for somebody else’s child, not mine. The signalling value of vocational skills is very low and hence does not attract a large number of learners. This is primarily due to lack of appreciation of hands-on training, limited upward mobility, weak industry linkages and strong perception of not being paid decent wages.

Would like to summarize by saying that vocational skilling infrastructure is a combination of place, time and money and should be seen to address the trinity of cost, quality and scale in vocational skilling. A lot still needs to be done and unless we have a large amount of productive workforce in every sector, our job is not done.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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