Vocational Education – On Shaky Ground

To sustain and succeed in today’s international competitiveness, economies require a skilled workforce that is critical for the success of the services sector, which in turn fuels the economic development. Particularly in countries like India where only 5% of the work force has vocational degrees whereas South Korea, Japan and Germany have 95%, 80% and 70% of work force respectively with vocational degrees  (Source: ASSOCHAM).

In India, vocational training is provided on a full time basis through industrial training institutes (I.T.I.s). ITIs could play a major role in bridging the skill gap in India. ITI’s offer a wide range of courses such as dairying, accounting and taxation, banking and financial services, automobile engg., electrical wiring and servicing of electrical appliances, dental technician etc.

But according to a 2009 White Paper prepared by McKinsey & Company, only half of the ITIs have full seat utilisation and of those ITI’s with vacant seats, nearly one-third have more than 20% of vacant seats. NSS 61st round data states that 91% of the working population is employed in skill-based jobs in India. A striking contrast to this fact is that 90% of the population has no access to vocational education.

There are many issues roadblocking the vocational education in India. Some of them include, negligence of the authorities, curriculum not appropriate to the industry requirements, shortage of quality faculty, corruption, non-professional managements and processes, and of course easy entry into so-called ‘professional courses’ like engineering. However, a significant number of these engineering graduates are short of skills to get a job in the industry.

A major restructuring of the system, management, significant commitment by policy makers and awareness of its importance is needed to make the existing vocational education system relevant to needs of the market. India needs to make sweeping reforms in vocational education system to achieve success like Germany, Japan, and South Korea.

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