Although the field of education has made progress in the past ten years, this less regulated area of the education sector - vocational training— seems to have lost its importance. This has led to the widening gap between the supply and demand for skilled manpower across various industries. This shortage of skills has translated directly into unemployment among an increasing number of graduates who pass out every year and are forced to be re-trained in order to become marketable.

According to a recent study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), there will be a deficit of 40 million working professionals by the year 2020 and about 41% of the employers are faced with the difficulty of filling positions because of the dearth of suitable talent and skill in their industry.

The lack of a formal degree and the belief that the vocational track is only suitable for people from a lesser financial background has resulted in the declining popularity of this area. While students from a middle-class background are lured into academic pursuits and take up conventional degrees, pursuing a vocational education has remained a less-explored arena.

Vocational education is primarily non-academic in nature and offers practical training and skills needed to pursue an occupation straightaway. It provides students with courses directly aligned to land a job in a chosen profession or a skilled trade. The end result of vocational education is to enable an individual to attain self-employment.

Career options

Vocational education offers a wide variety of options in administrative, business, computer technology, printing, agriculture, automobile, craftsmanship, laboratory, librarian and cosmetic fields. Specifically, these courses include Typewriting, Secretarial Practices, Computer Operator, Desktop Publishing, Laboratory Technician, Librarian, Mechanic, Electrical Technician, Plumbing, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Tailoring, Beautician, etc.

Candidates with vocational training can find work in several state and central government organisations, non-profit groups, academic institutions and sometimes even in private companies. These jobs are often posted on newspapers and online portals and will provide instructions to candidates on the application process. Usually, selection to these positions will be made on a skill-based test conducted by the employers. Further, candidates with strong vocational education background, also opt for lecturer and teaching roles in the polytechnic colleges and vocational training institutes which match the government job scales.

Eligibility and skills

Students who have completed their 10th standard or have an equivalent diploma from polytechnics are eligible to pursue vocational education instead of going to college for higher education. Courses that focus on basic employability skills such as spoken and written English and workplace skills are also taught.

Students and sometimes even adults who are looking to change careers enrol at Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) and at private coaching institutes that offer vocational training.

They also work part time as apprentices to learn practical skills. While income from such part time jobs may not be significant, the combination of learning a new trade while simultaneously studying for two to three years at a vocational training institute may be the much needed solution to resolve the deficit of a skilled workforce.

Job market

As per the ideals of HRD minister Kapil Sibal, the Indian government has recently propelled the ‘National Vocational Education Qualification Framework' (NVEQF), whose mission is to employ students immediately after they have completed their school.

A new curriculum that encompasses vocational education besides science and commerce streams has been proposed for all the different boards. This will enable students to become skilled at vocational training while in pursuit of higher education either at school or college thereafter.

Students who have undergone vocational training can find employment in a variety of fields such as in call centres, infrastructure sector, office administration, banking, tourism, hotel management, retail, agriculture, printing, beauty salons etc.

If only students would pursue vocational skills training, it would quench the need for trained workers throughout the nation in the various industries, and thereby reduce unemployment.

Anusha Balasubramanian

faqs@cnkonline.com

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