The road-map for building competitive workforce is Vocational Education


Recently in a Bangalore based real estate Company the managers faced an acute problem of construction workers; one of their projects was falling acutely short of workers thus lagging behind the time line. The top brass sat down, and, in few hours, came up with a unique solution. They offered bonuses (of nearly Rs 15,000) to all those construction workers who promised to join immediately the construction site. Next, the company went scouting for workers in Bihar and UP, and brought in a train compartment with migrant workers after distributing three months’ salary to each worker’s family, well in advance. This is not a remote case. In fact, the workers shortage has become so acute that tempting workers with hefty joining bonuses, housing, and training and loyalty bonuses has become a style in the industry. Metro cities, such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata, are already facing a severe shortage of construction and assembly workers therefore we see a host of infrastructure projects pending for long spell of time.

A CII study on shortage of vocational personnel points out that the construction sector will account for over one-fourth of new jobs created over the next eight years. There is a severe shortage of electricians, plumbers, fitters, carpenters, bar-benders, etc. According to a Planning Commission report, the economy will invest nearly $500 billion in infrastructure over the next few years. And, to implement such mammoth projects, the manpower required would be huge. Already, many projects in major industrial belts are getting delayed by 12-18 months due to the non-availability of blue-collar workers. The only way industry can beat the crunch is to start training institutes and create manpower.

For instance, L&T has set up Construction Skills Training Institutes in five metros of the country. The institute trains people in essential skills like masonry, carpentry, bar-bending, steel-fixing, plumbing and electrical wiring. L&T personnel who work on construction sites are professionally trained. They are supervised by other experienced workers who demonstrate field practices and equipment handling skills. The trained workers are eventually posted to different work sites. L&T has, so far, managed to train nearly 8,500 people. Kudos to their initiative!

According to a demographic survey of 2001, 55% of Indians i.e about 550 million Indians are below 30 years of age, 70% of121 Indians – approximately 700 million Indians are below 35 years of age. India is indeed a very youthful nation. This young nation can do wonders in the world, but what we see is the youth is frustrated, stressed due to lack of employments opportunities,

One of the weaknesses of Indian education system is that it does not gives due importance to job-related education. Our Universities are busy churning out millions and millions of graduates every year; all of them looking out for white collar jobs. Where could all this youth be absorbed?  We are obsessed with the certificate of graduation. Millions of parents want their children just get a graduation and that’s it. They do not mind if their children have to work as peons in some organization, but the graduation certificate is of great respect. The mismatch between the education standards and the industry is widening the gap wider and wider. If this trend continues it will hurt our economic growth in an irreversible manner. To change this situation first we need to change our mindset. We need to compulsorily train our youth from secondary school level into vocational courses.

Today we face acute shortage of skilled manpower such as masons, plumbers, drivers, draughtsman, carpenters, and electricians etc. India’s labour force is growing at a rate of 2.5 per cent annually, but employment is growing at only 2.3 per cent. Thus, the country is faced with the challenge of not only absorbing new entrants to the job market (estimated at seven million people every year), but also clearing the backlog. Sixty per cent of India’s workforce is self-employed, many of whom remain poor permanently. Nearly 30 per cent are casual workers (i.e. they work only when they are able to get jobs and remain unpaid for the rest of the days). Only about 10 per cent are regular employees, of which two-fifths are employed by

the public sector. More than 90 per cent of the labour force is employed in the “unorganized sector”, i.e. sectors which don’t provide with the social security and other benefits of employment in the “organized sector.” These glaring facts need immediate actions from the policy makers. Today the younger generation wants workable policies with and outcomes.

The University Education Commission 1948-49 headed by Dr. S. Radhakrishanan rightly laid emphasis on its importance in the following words: “Professional education is the process by which men and women prepare for exacting, responsible service in the professional spirit. The term may be restricted to preparation for fields requiring well informed and disciplined insight and skill of a high order. Less exacting preparation may be designated as vocational or technical education.”

122The Kothari Commission (1964-66) was of the view that for a majority of occupations, university degrees were not necessary; and these jobs could be competently performed by trained higher secondary students. This Commission felt that it should be possible to divert at least 50 per cent of students completing 10 year education to the vocational stream, which would reduce the pressure on the universities and also prepare students for gainful employment.

The National Policy on Education in 1986 further emphasized importance on the introduction of systematic well planned and rigorously implemented programme of vocational education. The commission stressed upon the importance of re-organizing the educational policy by giving vocational education more weight. This commission introduced many vocational courses spanning in several areas of activities.

In 1985, the international year of the youth, the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, initiated a proposal to formulate a National Youth Policy. The National Youth Policy was tabled in the two houses of Parliament in late 1988. It has recognized that the most important component of the youth programme has to be the removal of unemployment, both, rural and urban, educated and non-educated. However, this bill did not get its due success due to lack of enthusiasm and loop holes in the government machinery itself.

While the Government is putting in its efforts to popularize the vocational training programs we civilians also need to change our mindset immediately. We need to look beyond the graduation certification. At the schooling level both parents and children lack awareness and willingness to actively engage in vocational education and training. This is also coupled with the availability of such programmes being lesser in numbers. The Government had targeted to ensure that 25% of all higher secondary students are enrolled in vocational courses in the year 2000, whereas only 3% got enrolled. With a capacity utilization of only about 42% and capacity of about 846,100 places in vocational courses, only about 350,000 to 400,000 students are enrolled in vocational education. If India has to progress we need millions of carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers, drivers, typists, mobile, refrigeration, TV repairing technicians, draughtsman, desktop publishers, architects, stenographers, tailors, beauty salon workers, turners, fitters etc. Let’s not underestimate the vocationally trained people; they can be self employed.

In rural India also we need to look at rigorous vocational training programs for the   youngsters and women.  A multi-faceted123 approach, which includes literacy, hygiene and moral training, gives rural women the tools to help fortify their communities. The speed of a nation’s development is directly related to the quantity and quality of vocational skills possessed by its workforce. We all need to realize that the wider the range and higher the quality of vocational skills, the faster the growth directly linked to social prosperity. The availability of employable skills is one of the major determinants of how readily new job seekers find employment. The very low level of employable skills makes the search for work much more difficult. It reduces the market value of the job seeker and adds to the costs of employers that must train new recruits from scratch

 China includes pre-employment training, training for people transferred to new occupations, apprentice training and on-the-job training, covering elementary, intermediary, and advanced vocational qualification training for technicians and other types of training to help people adapt to different job requirements. By developing higher vocational institutions, advanced technical schools, secondary polytechnic schools, technical schools, employment training centers, non-governmental vocational training institutions and enterprises employees’ training centers, the state endeavors to develop an all-round and multi-level national system of vocational education and training and strengthen training for the new urban workforce, laid-off workers, rural migrant workers and on-the-job employees. In China technical schools are comprehensive vocational training bases mainly engaged in training skilled workers, while offering different types of long or short-term training programs. Employment training centers are bases for training new workforce and laid-off people, mainly offering teaching in practical skills and helping the trainees to adapt to different job requirements. China worked firmly on the vocational training in youth and today has made a mark in the world as an industrious nation. The national planning commission strictly worked out the plan and followed it rigorously.

Singapore had recognized the need for vocational training as the only possibility for employment. In 1960, a Commission of Inquiry into Vocational and Technical Education in Singapore was set up. It recommended establishing a 2-year secondary vocational education stream in schools for poorer performers. By the late 1960s, there was a shortage of industrial skills. A ministerial level National Industrial Training Council (NITC) was formed in 1968 to address the issue. A Technical Education Department was created within the Ministry of Education. Technical assistance was sought through the Colombo Plan and the United Nations. In 1969, an industrial training system replaced the secondary vocational education stream. Nine vocational institutes were created between 1969 and 1971. By mid 1970s, Singapore achieved full employment, and had to shift its focus to increasing manpower productivity. There was also concern that school leavers did not take up vocational training. At the same time, the Adult Education Board (AEB, established in 1960) has shifted from general academic education towards commercial courses and pre-vocational training. The Council on Professional and Technical Education was formed to strategize measures to help manpower meet the demands of a new economic strategy that was technology intensive. Today Singapore is standing tall among the developed nations in the world!

In Japan until the end of the twentieth century, vocational education focused on specific trades such as, those of automobile mechanic or welders. Vocational education is related to the age-old apprenticeship system of learning. However, as the labor market becomes more specialized and economies demand higher levels of skill, governments and businesses are increasingly investing in the future of vocational education through publicly funded training organizations and subsidized apprenticeship or traineeship initiatives for businesses. At the post-secondary level vocational education is typically provided by an Institute of Technology, or by a local community college. Vocational education has diversified over the 20th century and now exists in industries such as retail, tourism information technology, funeral services and cosmetics, as well as in the traditional crafts and cottage industries. At the dawn of twentieth century Japan realized that to once again prove its dominance in the automobile and electronics market it needs to strengthen the vocational training schools as the skilled manpower can only help it establish its leadership position in the world market. Today, Japan is motivating its youth to get into vocational training programs and succeeding to some extent.

The German educat124ion system has been praised for its ability to provide quality general education combined with excellent specific training for a profession or a skilled occupation. In 1992 about 65 percent of the country’s workforce had been trained through vocational education. In the same year, 2.3 million young people were enrolled in vocational or trade schools. These schools usually offer full-time vocation-specific programs. They are attended by students who want to train for a specialty or those already in the workforce who want to earn the equivalent of an intermediate school certificate. Full-time programs take between twelve and eighteen months, and part-time programs take between three and three-and-one-half years. Other types of schools designed to prepare students for different kinds of vocational careers are the higher technical school (HTS). The method of teaching used in vocational schools is called the dual system because it combines classroom study with a work-related apprenticeship system. The length of schooling/training depends on prior vocational experience and may entail one year of full-time instruction or up to three years of part-time training. The Germans take pride of passing out from their vocational schools. The Government encourages the students to get certificates of vocational training and jobs are ensured for the students.

Vocational education and job training program has been a vital part of national development strategies in many nations in the world because of it is directly linked to human resource development, productivity, and economic growth. In India Apollo Tyres, Asian Paints, Mahindra & Mahindra, Videocon, JSW Steel, Indo Rama and Finolex are among a select list of companies that recently signed agreements with ITIs to tap a steady flow of skilled alumnae. But for specific job-related skills, most are starting their own training programmes or institutes. I think, we the people of India must take a call, emphasize seriously root cause of its failures and take corrective measures immediately. If we are dreaming of making it big by 2020, indeed, vocational training is the need of the hour.



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