How Skill Training Can Make the Youth More Workplace-Ready During Digital Era Experts characterize the country's employability problem a bigger challenge than unemployment itself
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Skill education or vocational training is typically the cornerstone of any economy. Ironically, though India is considered to be a melting pot of knowledge and skills, the vast majority of its educated youth lack what can be termed as "employability quotient'. Experts even characterize the country's employability problem a bigger challenge than unemployment itself. Equally problematic has been the quality of India's vocational education content and delivery systems.
Now that the digital era has flourished more than ever, how can the skill education sector leverage this new medium and prepare the country for a new-age economy? Here's a rundown of my thoughts.
High-quality content dissemination
Digitization allows unprecedented systematization of instructions, knowledge and training material and their storage. This has ensured a great degree of standardization and benchmarking in terms of quality. The skill education sector can leverage this by preparing, curating and using this off-the-shelf high-quality standardized material (such as video lectures) for dissemination. If the content is customized, based on the needs, level and budget of the learner, it would help him to learn at his own pace.
Better training facilities for supporting staff
Flowing from the first, there is greater transparency within the skill education and training ecosystem. Digitization also makes it easier for the governments and industry authorities to recognize and give accreditation and certification to training programmes and material. The skill-providing industry/institution must use this opportunity to make the best of what is available in the market accessible to its learning community. For instance, a start-up can avail instruction/training material from global leaders to train or upskill its staff online. This would catalyze an organic market-based instruction/training material ecosystem in a B2B as well as B2C mode. This is also one of the more subtle ways of what developing countries like India have always desired from their developed counterparts, namely, technology transfer, howsoever limited.
Free live interactions with one point of contact
Skill education providers must harness the unprecedented scale that digitization allows in terms of accessibility for the learners. With COVID-19 pressing the panic button, there is not only a spike in ed-tech companies, but also some traditional technology giants are offering free-to-use video conferencing and group interaction apps for collaborative learning. These apps and platforms can facilitate live instructions from a single point of delivery to an extraordinary number of learners previously inconceivable. This way they can learn irrespective of geographies and time zones making it even more helpful. This reduces both infrastructure and travel costs as well.
Flexibility to choose both online and classroom training
Some of the skill education providers have made it easier than ever to provide training support with the flexibility to choose both classroom and online training. However, they must also explore collaboration with those edtech companies and applications which take into account the low Internet bandwidth and erratic connections which is a major challenge in our country. They must provide ample solutions to cope with these real-world challenges, especially in rural areas.
Higher demand for banking, finance, and IT services training
Digitization has also brought new-age careers and professions spawned by new technologies in its wake. With a ripple effect created on the Indian labor market, there has been a demand for professionals in the field of banking, finance, AI, machine learning, data science and mobile development, among others. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. According to an employability assessment firm, only 3 per cent of engineers in India have new-age technological skills. Worse, over 80 per cent of graduate engineers passing out of universities in India are unemployable. With digitization going mainstream, this skill deficit can be redressed through world-class training material.
With the Indian online education market set to reach INR 36,030 crore by 2024, the skill education sector must be ready to cope with the change itself. Digitization has made the earlier on the job training in a simulated environment even more intuitive and "real workplace-ready'. The skill provider can combine this apprenticeship model of learning either with online, onsite, on-campus learning or in any desired mix.
However, I personally feel data penetration is still a major challenge especially in the rural areas. In a lot of training models, physical presence in a closed environment and interactive exchanges are needed and this is possible only in classroom pedagogy. When things are back to normal where people will be meeting each other without any hitch, only then we will understand if people are ready to adapt to the new norm or will they still prefer classroom training for a wholesome experience.