Vocational education: Bridging the skill gap

As technology advances at an unprecedented pace, the demand for highly skilled workers has increased significantly. By concentrating on job-specific skills, vocational training helps individuals to bridge the gap between education and employment, which is essential in today’s highly competitive job market

Vocational education: Bridging the skill gap

Deepak Roy’s aspiration to become a computer engineer was put on hold when he lost his father in 2020. However, he found a solution to support his family by enrolling in a diploma programme for financial accounting management at a vocational training institute in Kolkata. Today, Roy is employed as an assistant accountant in the IT sector, and although his initial dream of becoming a computer engineer did not materialise, he is proud to be able to provide for his family.

Aritra Ganguly (28) works as an X-Ray technician at a private hospital in Kolkata. He had completed a diploma in X-Ray Technology after his Plus Two.

A recent survey by TeamLease revealed India will need 30 million digitally skilled professionals by 2026 and 50% of the current workforce would need to re-skill themselves in areas of emerging technologies. At a time when India is on a relatively strong growth path and on the track to becoming the world’s third-largest economy by 2027, vocational education to meet the industry’s rising requirements for skilled manpower is the need of the hour.

In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always stressed the skill development of the new generation. Time and again, he has mentioned how India’s skilled workforce is the backbone of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’. In his first Independence Day speech in 2014, PM Modi said: “Ramping up skills, particularly in trades, through vocational education has emerged as a recurrent and increasingly critical priority for India.”

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has also given special emphasis on vocational education. NEP 2020 believes integration and mainstreaming of vocational education with general education will help students in acquiring various skills to meet the needs of the industries and to improve the quality of education.

“Vocational training is crucial for career development as it provides hands-on experience and practical skills in a specific field. It prepares individuals for the workforce and helps them acquire the necessary knowledge and certifications to excel in their chosen profession. By focusing on job-specific skills, vocational training bridges the gap between education and employment, which is critical in today’s competitive job market,” said Prof (Dr) Santanu Kr Sen of Guru Nanak Institute of Technology (GNIT), Kolkata.

The NEP 2020 also aims to remove any hard separations that exist between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, and between vocational and academic streams. The policy stresses giving students increased flexibility and choice of subjects to study, particularly in secondary school, including subjects in physical education, arts and crafts, and vocational skills so that they can design their own paths of study and life plans.

“Given that it equips people with information and skills relevant to particular jobs, vocational training is becoming more and more popular in India. The National Skill Development Corporation and the Skill India Project are just two of the programmes the Indian government has started to encourage vocational training. India offers a wide variety of vocational programmes, from established crafts like construction and plumbing to cutting-edge industries like artificial intelligence and digital marketing. Vocational training has turned into a crucial component of the nation’s workforce growth due to the rising demand for skilled workers in India,” said Prof Dr M R Kanjilal, Narula Institute of Technology (NIT).

The NEP 2020 mentions that every student will take a fun course, during grades 6-8, that gives a survey and hands-on experience of a sampling of important vocational crafts such as carpentry, electric work, metal work, gardening, pottery making, etc., as decided by states and local communities and as mapped by local skilling needs. According to NEP 2020, by 2025, at least 50% of learners shall have vocational exposure through schools and higher education.

Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur, has been running an Industrial Training Centre (RKMITC) since 1967. From teaching how to become a professional draughtsman mechanic, fitter, plumber, or welder to electrician, and automobile service technician, various long and short-term courses are available to make the boys stand on their own feet.

“The demand for a skilled workforce will always be there. India lacks skilled workers like masons, plumbers and electricians. RKM thought of technical and vocational education 60 years ago,” said revered Swami Sarvalokananda Maharaj, secretary of Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur, West Bengal.

Also known as career and technical education (CTE) or technical and vocational education and training (TVET), it’s important to research and select a vocational course that aligns with your interests, strengths, and career goals. Given the rapid advancement of technology, IT courses like computer programming, web development, cybersecurity, and network engineering are in high demand.

“Courses like nursing, healthcare management, medical coding, health and safety are quite popular. Courses like hotel management, food and beverage management, event planning and tourism management are in demand in the hospitality and tourism industries. With a growing need for infrastructure, courses like civil engineering, electrical engineering, architecture, and construction management are also much sought after. Courses like accounting, financial management, human resources, and business administration are popular in the business and finance industries. Along with courses like graphic design, animation, photography, and filmmaking are in demand in the creative arts and media industry,” said Prof (Dr) Sen.

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta, Business Head, TeamLease Services informed how vocational skills give an edge to candidates as they have a better understanding of the role due to its OJT (on-the-job training) embedded nature. It is cost-effective, time-efficient, and allows individuals to enter the workforce more quickly.

“Vocational training is gaining importance in India as it plays a crucial role in addressing the skill gap and providing employment opportunities to millions of people. Today, after completing vocational courses, students can get entry-level positions in the services industry including retail, logistics, and hospitality with an average starting salary of Rs 15,000 to Rs 18,000,” he said.

In fact, retail, hospitality, logistics, warehouse, and automotive technology are among the few vocational courses that are in great demand and offer good employment opportunities.

Despite PM Modi’s continuous stress on vocational and technical training, over 84 percent of Indians between the 12 and 59 age groups did not receive vocational and technical training in 2020-21.

“Vocational education assists people in gaining relevant expertise and practical skills in their area of choice. Vocational training prepares people for the workforce and aids in closing the skills gap that occurs in many sectors by emphasising job-specific skills,” said Prof (Dr) Kanjilal of NIT.

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