Skills Are What Takes US Far, Not The Degree

Sanjay Bahl, CEO & MD, Centum LearningDelhi based Centum Learning is a global organization in the skills which provides Corporate Training, Vocational Skills Training, Skill development & CSR Partnership to improve business productivity, enhancing the company's overall operations.

The traditional education system is focused on degrees rather than developing skills and competencies. While securing a degree is important, it alone does not guarantee success in the chosen field. One learns a number of theories during foundational education, but applying these theories at the workplace requires skills, which for the most part, are not taught as part of the degree programme. There has been limited emphasis on vocational training in the traditional system when it is one of the most important factors in preparing youth for jobs. Realizing this pressing issue, the Govt. of India launched the `Skill India' campaign in 2015. While a number of skill development programs in the country have been going on for decades, the `Skill India' campaign is focused on making `skill development' aspirational through providing employability skills to youth. The Government is partnering with stakeholders, including educational institutions, non-government organizations, academic institutions, and the private sector in the development of skills for the youth to enable best possible results.

Skill development programmes of the Central Government over the years have been spread across more than 20 Ministries/Departments, but the efforts towards convergence of these programs to ensure better skilling outcomes are very recent. The Government is moving to-wards a `consolidated approach to skilling' through setting up of common norms and standards in order to meet the challenge of skilling with speed, standard and sustainability. Even though the efforts towards consolidation are on-going, the challenge at hand is huge. One of the key concerns to be addressed is the public perception on skilling, which is viewed as the last option meant for those who have not been able to progress or have opted out of the formal academic system. The Government is addressing this through widespread publicity campaigns highlighting the advantages of vocational training. Participation in events like world skills competition, international job fairs and similar platforms is a welcome step.

The focus on vocational training programs is also leading to a number
of concerns and questions in the mind of the youth regarding the future of vocational training. It is common to come across questions like - Will the education help us get sustainable jobs with yearly increments and recognition for good performance? Will cam-pus placements be conducted in skill training programs as well? Will the hands-on learning be recognized by corporates? Who should we consider as a threat to their position- a person with a better skill set or a person with a professional degree? Along with setting up proper communication and dissemination channels to address these questions and concerns, the Govt. also needs to make policy changes as and when required to enable a fair ecosystem for the vocationally trained. Active involvement of all stakeholders is required to enable an equal pedestal for vocational training, rather than being considered as a `poor country cousin' of mainstream education. Regular counseling needs to be undertaken to address the concerns of the youth during training as well as after they get placed.

Integration of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system with the mainstream education system is another key enabler for increased recognition on vocational training. Traditionally, India had multiple qualification frameworks governing vocational and mainstream education respectively. With the implementation of the National Skill Qualification Framework which organizes qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude, the country now has an overarching quality assurance framework covering the entire gamut of school education, higher education as well as TVET. The NSQF levels are defined in terms of learning outcomes which the learner must possess regardless of whether they were acquired through formal, non-formal or informal learning. There is a need to support this vertical and horizontal integration through NSQF by implementing vocational education in schools and colleges. It is widely understood that in order to create a positive outlook for vocational skills, we need to integrate the same right at the elementary education level. The children completing primary/elementary schooling need to be imparted both generic and specific skills that will help them live a better quality of life. This also helps students make a career choice while they are in school. This implementation is being done by private training partners, with different State governments to implement NSQF in schools under the Central Government sponsored scheme of `Vocationalisation of School Education.

The Government is partnering with stakeholders including educational institutions, non-government organizations, academic institutions, and the private sector in the development of skills for the youth to enable best possible results

Last but certainly not the least, there is a need to align the vocational training programs with the requirement of the industry. Increased impetus to programs like `Apprenticeship training' where the apprentice gets trained on the industry shop floor for 1-2 years to be industry ready; industry led and run skill development courses is helping in laying down the foundation for developing `employability skills'. With these recent developments across the vocational training ecosystem, an `aspirational value' for vocational training programs leading to a soaring demand for such programs among the youth is aimed to be created. The time to realize that it is skills that will take us far and not the degrees alone is now.