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Vocational training: A must for Indian economy
In India, people are obsessed with attaining a graduation degree and generally look down upon vocational education. This has resulted in a huge shortage of skilled workers. If this trend continues, it would hurt our economic growth in the long run
FOR VOCATIONAL education and training in India, some 17 ministries and departments are involved in the provision and financing, with total annual training capacity of about 28 lakh (2,800,000) students. But as with many matters managed by our governments, the vocational training system is full of superlatives and potential on the one hand and inefficiency, on the other. The so called agencies have put their slogans only in their printed guidelines and handouts without taking into account the real target populace. In this age of liberalisation, India is still far from training people in different specialisations.

Vocational training is to impart specialised skills and knowledge and instilling social and political attitudes and behaviour patterns essential for successful economic activities by people engaged in dependent employment, self-employment or subsistence work. Vocational training can be of various types, depending on the way it has been acquired.

’Formal training’ refers to all training courses held in state or private (but state-certified) institutions regulated by state guidelines. ’Non-formal training’ covers all forms of training that takes place without being subject to state guidelines. In-company apprenticeships, both in formal or informal sector enterprises, is one of the most common forms of non-formal training. This kind of training also includes all programmes and projects offering skills-upgrading for those already active on the labour market, but who wish to extend their competencies by attending evening or weekend courses. There are no prerequisites for anyone to acquire vocational training. Both men and women can get trained at any time during their life. Studies have already proven that formal education is not a prerequisite for acquiring practical skills for income-generation, especially in the context of the informal sector. However, India’s formal vocational training system often creates minimum educational prerequisites leading to exclusion of those with lower levels of education.

In India, vocational education falls under the charge of the ministry of human resources development (MHRD). The ministry oversees vocational courses being offered in schools in 11th and 12th standard, under a centrally sponsored scheme called ’Vocationalisation of Secondary Education’ since 1988. Only the schools affiliated to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) offer the courses in accordance with the board’s scheme of studies and the course structure. The courses are of two-years duration and span six major disciplines, like dairying, farm machinery and equipment (agriculture), accounting and auditing (business and commerce), electrical technology, air conditioning and refrigeration (engineering and technology), X-Ray technician, health care and beauty culture (health and para medical) and preservation of fruits and vegetables, food services and management (home sciences and humanities).

Vocational training, on the other hand, broadly refers to certificate level crafts training (in India) and is open to students, who leave school after completing anywhere from grades 8-12. Programmes administered under the craftsmen training scheme (CTS) are operated by Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and Industrial Training Centres (ITCs). This scheme falls within the purview of the directorate general of employment and training (DGET), under the ministry of labour and employment (MOLE).

At a higher level, the technical education and vocational training system in India produces a labour force through a three-tier system — graduate and post-graduate level specialists (eg, Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and engineering colleges) trained as engineers and technologists; diploma-level graduates, who are trained in polytechnics as technicians and supervisors; and certificate-level craft people trained in it is, as well as through formal apprenticeships as semi-skilled and skilled workers.

The government of India in recent years has laid a lot of emphasis on streamlining vocational education so that it fulfills the emerging need of the market by focusing on employability skills. In consonance with this thrust, the CBSE has introduced a course in financial market management (FMM), under vocational stream, which is likely to be renamed as professional education and training. In the budget speech 2007-08, Union finance minister announced a scheme for upgradation of 1396 government ITIs into centres of excellence in specific trades and skills through public private partnership. In pursuance of this announcement wide-ranging discussions were held with state governments, industry associations and other stakeholders and a scheme named ’Upgradation of 1396 Government ITIs through Public Private Partnership’ was formulated.

The cabinet committee for economic affairs (CCEA) of the Union cabinet in its meeting held on October 25, 2007 has approved this scheme ‘in principle’ for the XI five year plan period and has given financial approval for one year for upgradation of the first batch of 300 ITIs at a cost of Rs 774.5 crore.

The directorate general of employment and training (DGE&T) in the ministry of labour, government of India initiated CTS in 1950 by establishing about 50 ITIs for imparting skills in various vocational trades to meet the skilled manpower requirements for technology and industrial growth of the country. One of the main reasons for the lack of market responsiveness among vocational training courses is the limited or no participation of the industry in contributing to curricula development. It is the industry which has to finally employ the training graduates. Hence, their mandate in determining what their future employees need to be taught can hardly be overemphasised. There are some rare cases of industry participation, as members of institute management committees (IMCs) for ITIs. But even such participation has been found to namesake, at best.

Studies have only reinforced the fact that the majority of workers in the unorganised economy of India have never been to vocational training institutions and/or school. On the other hand, the formal skills training system, because of its educational entry requirements and long duration of courses, is designed to exclude the underprivileged informal sector workers. Yet, given the vast size of India’s informal workforce, the need to address the skills of informal sector workers is more pressing than any other.

One of the weaknesses of Indian education system is that it does not gives due importance to vocational education. As a result, there is a mismatch between the skilled manpower required and skilled manpower available. Every year we churn out millions of graduates, who do not have the specific skill sets required by the market. If this trend continues, it would hurt our economic growth in the long run. To change this situation, first we need to change our mindset. In India, people are obsessed with attaining a graduation degree and generally look down upon vocational education. This has resulted in a situation, where on the one hand there are scores of unemployed graduates and on the other hand there is a huge shortage of skilled workers, such as plumbers, electricians, etc. And this must change.

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