Skills And Knowledge Are The Driving Forces Of Economic Growth And Social Development For Any Country

In an exclusive interview with BW Education, Shaheen Khan, Director of CEDP Skill Institute stresses how important are the skills in today's era for students.

Q. Why it is necessary to set up a regulator for skill education?

World over skilling involves pursuing very focused, one- to three-year courses or apprenticeships that impart skills that are otherwise difficult to learn. These are high-quality programmes that ensure employment and offer long-term career pathways. However, skilling in India has come to mean taking up a three-month course in limited areas.

Driven by this narrow approach, we have failed to create a healthy ecosystem to promote the longer, more evolved courses that can deliver real value. While ITIs were set up to serve this purpose, they continue to lack both in footprint and quality. To realize India’s true economic potential and to boost industrial productivity by supplying firms with skilled resources, we need to think of skilling in a holistic manner. The regulator for the skill education sector will play a key role in mainstreaming millions of students who pass out of the vocational education system, including the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). This will include aspects ranging from conducting exams to assess the efficacy of skills schools and sector skill councils.

Q. Why there is an immediate need for quality control of the skill development landscape?

Skills and knowledge are the driving forces of economic growth and social development for any country. Countries with higher and better levels of skills adjust more effectively to the challenges and opportunities of the world of work. As India moves progressively towards becoming a knowledge economy it becomes increasingly important that the country should focus on the advancement of skills and these skills have to be relevant to the emerging economic environment. In order to achieve the twin targets of economic growth and inclusive development, India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has to grow consistently at 8% to 9% per annum. This requires significant progress in several areas, including infrastructure development, agricultural growth coupled with productivity improvements, financial sector growth, a healthy business environment, ably supported by a skilled workforce. 

Skill development cannot happen without developing a credible, sound, aspirational, national system that is quality assured and internationally compatible with the close involvement of the industry. India will have to get its act together and need to create a sound and quality driven national vocational education and training system.

Q. Why it is imperative to have a check on the quality of Skill development in India?

Today, India produces lakhs of arts, science and commerce graduates every year, most of who struggle to find jobs. We have nearly 4,000 business schools, many of them on the verge of shutting down. The same is the case with engineering colleges. Corporates constantly complain about the quality of the educated and skilled workforce in the country. Estimates suggest that around 80% of people joining the workforce today are unemployable. This implies that higher education in India requires a significant rethink. India should have a far higher number of ITIs (public and private) or similar institutions, offering a wide range of high-end skilling courses, and fewer generic arts, science and commerce courses.

An effective elementary education system is critical to ensure that children have the basic skills—academic, cognitive and social as they enter skilling or higher education programmes. So far, India has done well on access and enrolment to schools. However, the quality of education remains a key concern across government and aided private schools, which together cater to 70-80% of the children. Also as several countries will need human resources from India in the coming years, it is imperative to have a check on the quality of skill development in India right now 

Q. Why it is necessary to include Vocational education in mainstream education?

We live in a time of change. Education plays an important role in this changing world as we seek new and better ways to prepare students to take their places in society. If India wants to have a competitive advantage, it needs to restructure its Vocational Education and Training (VET) system.  When it comes to providing vocational education, generally parent does not feel comfortable in sending his/her child for a vocational programme. They always prefer that the child should take academic education, excel in that and take up white collar professions. The blue colour is not looked at by the society as a first choice. We see that the children are not able to cope up with the stress of higher academic education, they fail, and they even leave their programmes in between, which, however, do not change our minds set.

The future demands for the work-force and the community require people with skills of work competence, community participation and self-advocacy; the new perspective must be student-centered within the community and employment context. There is a huge gap between the traditional basic skill instruction and the expressed labour force skill needs of employers. So to fill this gap and also to make India World’s Skill Capital vocational education and training simultaneously need to include in the mainstream education. 

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