Vocational skilling, a boon or bane

A degree may help you start your career, but it is only skills that will build your career

by Neeti Sharma

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A healthy economy is one with enough employment opportunities and enough skilled job seekers. 65% of India’s population is in the working age group, however only 10% of the workforce is in the organized sector and just 2.5% of our working population has undergone any vocational training.

The Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), through its Skill India program have been very actively trying to bring together Industry, Job Seeker and Academia to be able to chart a long term plan to develop vocational skills amongst our youth. The skilling ecosystem in India has witnessed some great policy reforms which will develop a stable platform for all stakeholders.

But is doing a short term vocational skills program enough ? Or does the job seeker need to do more ?

e still believe that Vocational Skilling is for somebody else’s child , not ours. Vocational skilling is not only for the underprivileged, but can be made use by all. Many state and central departments such as schools , Higher education etc are integration vocational skilling as part of their curriculum.

A vocational skilling program provides job specific training for trades with a focus on providing hands-on learning that can lead to a certificate, diploma or degree. A vocational training program tends to provide an edge to the job seeker during job searches . Apart from this advantage, there are many others that benefit the job seeker :

CAREER PLANNING OR UPGRADATION: Apart from learning new skills, vocational training also aids in up gradation of skills for the individual, thus eradicating skill obsolescence and utilization. Unlike others, this is taken up by already employed people to enhance their job-related knowledge.

INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY: The capacity and skills possessed by a person who is trained and the individual who is not is evidently shown in their performances. Vocational training increases the productivity of the individual by keeping them updated with the skills. There is an higher chance for promotion  at the workplace.

EASE THE CONCEPTS: As the learners are given  hands-on training, it will be easy for them to relate to various concepts easily when compared to others who have not undergone the training, thus giving them an upper edge.

REDUCES MARGINALIZATION: Some of the groups that are marginalized in the society have an easy access to vocational training that helps them earn a living. Even a student who does not attain excellent grades can get a job with the help of vocational training.

SHORTER DURATION: Vocational school programs are typically shorter than a four-year private or public college. Associate degree programs at community colleges or technical schools typically include two years of full-time study and 60 to 65 credit hours. Students can also earn specialized certifications in degree programs that may take as little as nine to 12 months to earn.

Of course, every upside comes with few downsides. Vocational skilling has few too, such as

SIGNALLING VALUE : The biggest drawback of vocational skilling is the signaling value in our country. Till date we fail to believe that vocational skilling is as good , if not better than other education degrees.

LACK OF ACADEMICS: Since most  vocational skilling programs are aimed at “Quick fix” solutions, there is not enough time to teach the learner traits that they should learn in school / college.

JOB SCORE: The low score when it comes to job competition against applicants having a traditional college degree. Even though the candidates are trained with job related knowledge, the outlook seems to be widely different.

COSTS ASSOCIATED: Despite the low costs associated with vocational schools, technical programs may have higher program-related costs. The students may need to spend huge amount of money on tools and equipment and also on workshops and materials during the program. Not all the candidates will be economically capable to spend huge amounts on training.

NARROW CURRICULUM: In vocational Institutions there are provisions for only technical subjects. There is no place for liberal education. So with their technical knowledge the students are not able to acquire knowledge of human relations and social objectives of productions. So it is needed that curriculum of vocational education should be broadened with general and liberal education.

The drawback of vocational courses is the limited flexibility they offer to students. For instance, If an individual joins a diesel/auto mechanic course and realize halfway it is not what he wants, they will need to start all over again with the new skill.

On the other side, an individual who starts with a four-year regular course can opt for general requirements at first, while exploring available options to choose a degree program. A career-focused degree includes an array of experiences and classes which better prepare students for diverse career options.

We still believe that Vocational Skilling is for somebody else’s child , not ours. Vocational skilling is not only for the underprivileged, but can be made use by all. Many state and central departments such as schools , Higher education etc are integration vocational skilling as part of their curriculum. Unless and until we view vocational skilling as a must have, it will fail to add value to the Skilling &Labour Ecosystem.

A degree may help you start your career, but it is only skills that will build your career.


Neeti SharmaNeeti Sharma is Sr. Vice President at TeamLease Services Ltd.

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