'Many youngsters in Kerala, despite being jobless, refrained from undergoing vocational training'

Labour Minister Shibu Baby John has called upon non-governmental organisations and the voluntary sector to focus on changing the mindset of the youth towards work.

Delivering the valedictory address of the Sixth Nation Skill Conference organised by the Functional Vocational Training and Research Society (FVTRS), in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr. John said the country was facing formidable challenges in skill development and poverty eradication. Though several programmes to tackle the situation had been launched, only attitudinal changes would ensure success, he said.

Calling upon FVTRS to partner with the government on this aspect, the Minister said the State had initiated several programmes for skill development of the youth, including the Additional Skill Acquisition programme and Additional Skill Enhancement programme.

The two-day meet saw deliberations on topics themed on employability skills and entrepreneurial spirit in the unorganised sector.

It was felt that lack of recognition and social stigma were hampering efforts to develop vocational skills among youth, which was why many youngsters still shied away from taking up vocational training courses.

According to FVTRS president Fr. Antony Kariyil, and FVTRS programme manager Felix D’ Souza, many youngsters in Kerala, despite being jobless, refrained from undergoing vocational training which would fetch him remunerative jobs. FVTRS had partnered with 122 non-governmental organisations to offer training in skills ranging from plumbing and driving to carpentry and artificial flower-making.

The courses were aimed at underprivileged youth who had failed to pass Class 10. More than 1.6 lakh youngsters were estimated to have so far received training through the initiative.

Now, FVTRS had partnered with the National Institute of Opening Schooling to help the youth pass class X as well.

However, several major universities, particularly in Kerala, were refusing to recognise these courses. On the other hand, many still preferred a teaching job which fetched Rs.3,500 to a plumbing trade, which would yield Rs.30,000, considering the second a sub-standard option. “We are taking up awareness campaigns through NGOs to get rid of the social stigma. The issue of universities not recognising their eligibility has to be taken up separately,” Fr. Kariyil said, adding that the government would have to take up the issue of certifying the youth thus trained.

UNESCO Chair for Community Participation and president of the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) Rajesh Tandon; UNDP Global Advisor John Samuel; Orissa Information Commissioner Jagadananda; FVTRS executive director Albert Joseph; and vice-president Koely Roy spoke at the event, which was inaugurated on Thursday by Finance Minister K.M. Mani.