Imparting work skills

Eight colleges in Tamil Nadu have been selected by the UGC to host Kaushal Kendras. The writer speaks to the principals on the way forward.

September 13, 2015 05:00 pm | Updated 05:29 pm IST

The emphasise is on practical, hands-on training to improve students' chances of getting placed in reputed companies. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

The emphasise is on practical, hands-on training to improve students' chances of getting placed in reputed companies. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

In January this year, an expert committee of the University Grants Commission (UGC) called colleges from across the country to make a pitch for a special grant proposed by the commission. When the results came out, eight colleges from Tamil Nadu had been chosen for grants to set up Deendayal Upadhyay Centres for Knowledge Upgradation and Skilled Human Abilities and Livelihood in Colleges (Kaushal Kendras) — a scheme for equipping students with skills that would prepare them for jobs. Under the scheme, the colleges would set up infrastructure to run career-oriented courses. About 700 institutions had applied and 48 got the grant.

I spoke to the principals of Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya College of Arts and Science (Coimbatore), Loyola College (Chennai), Dr. NGP Arts and Science College (Coimbatore), SNS College of Technology (Coimbatore) and the vice-chancellor of Gandhigram Rural Institute of Tamil Nadu (Gandhigram) on the winning list. The other colleges in the list — Bharathidasan University (Tiruchi), Vivekanand College (Kanyakumari) and Sri Ramakrishna College of Arts and Science for Women (Coimbatore) — scored big in both aided and self-financed categories.

Why you, I asked them. Why not, countered Joseph Antonysamy, principal of Loyola College. Their Institute of Vocational Education has been around since 1996, and, since 2000, the college has had a skill-based course in the final semester of UG/PG programmes. Students intern with industries in the sixth semester and get placed with the 100-odd companies that visit the campus annually.

“Kendra objectives are in line with ours,” said Jayabalakrishnan, principal of Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya. “We’ve been imparting vocational/skill-training since 1951. Infrastructure facilities for skill-training in different trades have been created by top industrial houses on our campus through MoUs. This might have helped our selection,” he explained.

SNS-Coimbatore is autonomous, accredited by NAAC (‘A’-Grade) with programmes licensed by NBA (Washington Accord) – AICTE. “We are known for our research publications. We collaborate with NSQF training partners, sector skill councils/industries for framing the curriculum, syllabi, industry-training and placement,” said Chenthur Pandian. “Availability of resources, subjects selected, record of fulfilling the requirements of National Skill Development Corporation and ITES sector skill-council of NASSCOM for job-rolls in banking and analytics got us the grant,” said Muthusamy P. Raju, principal of Dr. NGP College. “We identify skill-gaps and design our programmes, and have a skill-partner approved by NSDC,” he said. Dr. NGP College presented job-rolls in accounts (reporting), payroll, receivables/ payments, taxation, investment banking, ITES process, DTP, market research, software development, CRM and analytics.

Extra edge

In their presentations, the colleges highlighted the skill infrastructure on campus, linkages with industrial houses for training/placement and alignment of their curriculum with the National Skill Qualification Framework. For SNS, Dr. Chenthur Pandian and Professor Tamil Selvam highlighted their infrastructure that enabled plumbing, logistics and supply-chain management trade courses along with project costs.

The NGP presentation included programmes on taxation/accounting/analytics and alignment of the units with National Occupational Standards and National Skill Quality Framework (NSQF).

Loyola College's courses that come under the KK Scheme would prove a big attraction: 3D Animation and Digital Journalism (content writing), open to Class XII-pass students and those pursuing UG courses at the college. First-year diploma lessons include mass-media, journalism, digital journalism, ethics and cyber-laws; second-year advanced diploma has digi-tech, Internet, web-design and software/hardware. The degree-certificate course in the third-year is on social media network — how to be an intelligent digital user. The animation module includes product design and interactive animation, architecture and VFX and character animation and gaming.

UGC, New Delhi, has awarded the Ramakrishna Mission a community college scheme that looks promising: a one-year diploma programme in construction/building technology and CNC machine operations.

“The mandate of Gandhigram Rural Institute (GRI-established in 1956) is to take higher education to the doorsteps in rural areas with a decisive focus on skill development,” said director L. Raja. The first rural university in the country (NAAC ‘A’-Grade), it has a track-record of organising academic/outreach programmes for rural development. “We have 50 programmes for teaching/research/extension. It’s a 3-D approach, specialising in bio-chemical/social sciences, animal husbandry, agriculture, health/sanitation and public-health personnel training. Our 20-year experience in vocational skill development will help us use the grant for upgradation. We'll award diplomas in auxiliary nursing, energy equipment operation/maintenance, degrees in farm equipment operation/maintenance, footwear/accessories design and retail management,” said vice-chancellor S. Natarajan.

Focus

The idea behind Kaushal Kendras is to upgrade higher education with skill-competency in universities and colleges. The emphasis is on practical, hands-on training so that there is a good chance of students getting placed in reputed industrial houses. “We are confident this UGC scheme will enable us to contribute to the process of nation-building by empowering youth with skills,” said Joseph Antonysamy. Through these Kendras, “students will get vertical mobility with skills relating to a profession, appropriate content of general education and the flexibility of pre-defined entry and multiple exit points,” said Chenthur Pandian. “They will be work-ready at each exit point of the programme.”

Interestingly, students have been discussing industry-based skill development at MyGov.in. “Universities should move from being knowledge-centres to skill-centres,” said one student. “UGC should make grants on the basis of a college ensuring that there's no non-skilled/unemployed youngster in the area,” “Start skilled-graduate employment exchanges.” The areas suggested include everything from farming to self-defence.

“There is need for integrated initiatives towards knowledge acquisition and upgrading of skilled human competencies in universities and colleges. They should be appropriately employed or become entrepreneurs to meet our economic and industrial needs,” said Muthusamy Raju. But merely teaching people the skills won’t help. They need to be innovative and have the expertise to catch up with other nations in the 21st century.

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