IGNOU to certify skills of uneducated workers

Special Correspondent

Varsity begins to implement the Assessment and Certification of Prior Learning programme

CHENNAI: Come March, and thousands of students across the country will be preparing for the examinations that will test their skills and lead to certificates, diplomas and degrees. This March, thousands of uneducated workers will find their skills being recognised with certification for the first time.

The Indira Gandhi National Open University has started to implement the Assessment and Certification of Prior Learning programme, recently approved by the Union Ministry of Labour. The university is in the process of developing the tools needed to test candidates and the first level of certification will be rolled out by March 2009, according to Vice-Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai. The target is to certify one lakh people per year, he added.

Speaking on the sidelines of an orientation programme for teachers of IGNOU’s new Diploma in Retailing Course in Chennai on Thursday, Dr. Pillai said that 95 per cent of the country’s workforce has no certification despite being a vast storehouse of knowledge and skills. “The total knowledge and skills available with the so-called uneducated people will be several million times the knowledge and skills available with the so-called educated people in this country,” he said. “I was trained in chemistry, but there must be thousands of people across the country working in industries, who have more practical knowledge of chemistry than I do,” he added, using a personal example. “So why should we make them study so many things they already know?”

Testing method

IGNOU is developing a “rigorous testing” method to systematically identify and assess the skill level of a candidate to determine the certification it will grant. With the help of industry experts, it will also identify the skill level required by the industry today and offer customised training to update candidates and help them bridge that gap.

Soft skills

Soft skills and communication training will also be part of the package, he said. The initial focus of the scheme will be on the construction industry, with its huge pool of unorganised labour, as well as the information technology sector.

Certification was important to ensure a level of standardisation and mobility, said Dr. Pillai. “The ground reality is that people are being sent away from organisations under the pretext that they don’t have the requisite certification or qualification,” he said, adding that promotions within a company or the ability to move between organisations, or even countries, were also dependent on certification.

In developed nations, 80 per cent of the workforce has certification of some sort, he said, adding that “if we can increase the percentage of certification in India from 5 per cent to 10 per cent, we can double the national productivity.”

“Let us throw away the myth that only universities can certify,” said Dr. Pillai, recommending that any credible institution should be allowed to certify skills. IGNOU and other universities should be responsible for building capacities among such institutions.

This week, IGNOU has also finalised the establishment of a new Centre for Corporate Education and Training.

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