Union Budget 2023: Bridging Gap Between Education And Employment

This budget re-envisions teachers’ training, with a focus on continuous professional development; with rapid changes in higher education, faculty need continuous upskilling to stay abreast of new skills, trends, digital teaching and pedagogy

This year's union budget added key building blocks to the digital ecosystem for education, addressing issues like the employability of graduates and need for stronger industry-academia links – a lot is at stake to protect the country’s demographic dividend and equip our workforce with the skills required to compete in the knowledge economy. Along with policy support, scaling and speeding up reforms in higher education will need a concerted multi-stakeholder effort, with innovative thinking that goes beyond conventional solutions. India’s leading universities are already powering through, adopting online learning to solve legacy challenges and make students job-ready.  

Making new graduates employable

Today’s college student is tomorrow’s employee. A prerequisite to make students employable and drive faster time to productivity once they join a job, is to align curriculum to the skills and capabilities employers need. PM  Kaushal Vikaas Yoajna 4.0, which aims to skill lakhs of young Indians over the next three years in 4.0 skills like robotics, coding, drones, AI, IoT, 3D printing and soft skills is a stride in this direction. It will simultaneously focus on strengthening industry partnerships - a critical enabler to build India’s innovation ecosystem, as the UGC reports. 

The ‘employability ecosystem’ is a network of interdependent parts, comprising students, higher education institutes and employers - each needs the others to succeed. Online learning can act as a bridge in this ecosystem. Employers can create and offer content from their subject matter experts online, which - without location or faculty constraints - can easily be integrated into college curricula. Blended learning allows universities to fill critical gaps in their curriculum, by offering recognised online credentials from industry leaders to their students, aligned to real-world employer needs. NMIMS, a deemed to be university in Mumbai, enables its engineering students to earn extra credits online to graduate with an honors degree, with a specialization in artificial intelligence and 4.0 technologies such as IoT and cloud computing. 

Several colleges in India are adopting online industry micro-credentials and specialisations to dynamically upgrade their curricula, training students in 4.0 skills. Similarly, digital labs can scale hands-on learning in another high-demand area - for 5G skills, supplementing the physical labs proposed for 5G services. This would equip many more students across India to build applied skills for 5G technologies.   

Enabling young Indians to build in-demand skills will open up a wide range of career opportunities globally, helping India stay competitive in the fast-changing technology landscape, while creating a Made-in-India talent pool that can serve the world. 

Developing skills for ‘Make AI in India, Make AI Work in India

Last year, a NASSCOM report noted AI adoption could add $500 billion to India's GDP by 2025, with a massive opportunity for Indian enterprises to add economic value by accelerating investments and adoption of AI. 'Make AI Work in India' will need a broad-based effort, with businesses across sectors scaling an understanding of AI - identifying where and how to apply AI. We are already seeing enterprises improve the depth and breadth of AI skills through online learning, with the most in-demand courses for enterprise learners including AI For Everyone, The Data Scientist’s Toolbox and Machine Learning Foundations: A Case Study Approach.

The proposal to set up three new centres of excellence for artificial intelligence in top leading educational institutions will bring India’s AI talent to the fore for ‘Make AI in India.’ The country's top technical institutes which are hubs for AI research and innovation, can create programs to scale access to AI skills online, preparing next-generation workers to lead India’s AI revolution.

The Digital University

The status of implementation document for last year’s budget announcements, includes an expanded vision for India’s Digital University that proposes bringing ed-tech platforms into the Digital University ecosystem, augmenting a system planned with a network of India’s best public universities and institutions. The possibilities from here are limitless - from optimised offerings, to curricula co-development, collaboration between national and international institutes, shared resources online, digital learning hubs and common credit systems, to a faculty representing the best of India and the world. The Digital University has the potential to increase student capacity tremendously, without incurring infrastructure costs. It promises to be a game changer for inclusion, improving access to a high-quality education virtually for Indians, with life-changing impact. 

Empowering teachers to lead change

Transforming the quality of teaching by empowering teachers is a focal point of India’s higher education reforms, outlined in the NEP. This budget re-envisions teachers’ training, with a focus on continuous professional development. With rapid changes in higher education, faculty need continuous upskilling to stay abreast of new skills, trends, digital teaching and pedagogy. Online learning can help colleges address the diverse learning needs of their faculty members - NITTE Deemed to be University is leveraging online learning from top experts and institutes globally to upskill faculty in their schools ranging from Medical and Dental to Science, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy and Engineering. The university has identified four themes for faculty development: Technology for Education, Research and Scholarship, Civic Responsibilities and Personal Development.

With wide-spread adoption of online learning through the pandemic, Indian institutions have the digital tools and expertise to explore new use cases through virtual learning. This has the potential to accelerate reforms in higher education that make students employable and give India’s workforce a competitive edge.

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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