In the past decade, Vocational Education and Training (VET) has found a key space in the realm of Indian policy-making, evoking the interest of policy analysts all over the country. The Government has promoted skill development majorly under two schemes: the Craftsman Training Scheme and apprenticeships offered under the Apprentices Act. The establishment of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA, now NCVET), kick started the formalisation and growth of the VET sector. The NSDC’s main task is to initiate and coordinate the active involvement of the private sector, along with overseeing the growth of Sector Skill Councils. However, they have been reportedly criticised for low-quality outputs. A target was set for skilling 500 million people by 2022, which was later revised to 402.9 million.
Multiple empirical studies confirm that VET has a positive impact on wages. A study covering agriculture, manufacturing and services industries found that having formal training increases the expected wage by 4.7 per cent compared to someone without training. After their VET program, individuals seem more willing to work in the salaried sector, a sought-after avenue in the Indian attitude towards employment. On the other hand, whether VET has a significant impact on generating employability has been a contentious topic. Studies reveal that amongst young candidates, the employment rate, even two years after completing a short-term standalone formal vocational training, is at a staggering 28 per cent. Even amongst the ones who get employed, the rate of quitting is high, indicating that a direct placement from training does not ensure a suitable job match or sustainability of employment.
Impact of VET programmes
Moreover, about 30 per cent of the candidates from the study mentioned above are unwilling to work right after their training and pursue higher education instead. There is a possibility, hence, that in the present circumstances, increasing VET training programmes might lead to more unemployment in the long run unless strong measures are taken, including designing and offering demand-led VET qualifications and making the entire job market and industry accept these short-term VET qualifications as eligibility for various jobs. While new VET qualifications are emerging on the scene, recruiters have yet to accommodate these VET qualifications in their recruitment guidelines fully.
However, it has been seen through various studies that when the relevant VET qualifications are offered in an integrated mode, the opportunities become brighter for both employers and prospective employees. This integrated mode requires institutions to integrate VET education into formal education along with opportunities for work through apprenticeships or internships, thereby making it a hybrid model offering.
Policymakers need to formulate curriculums and training in a manner that ensures sustainability in terms of employment
An intensive study conducted using OECD dataset in over 40 countries made some notable observations about the outcomes of formal VET programmes and the possible factors affecting them. One of the key observations drawn from it is that “VET graduates have a higher probability of getting employed than general education graduates, their odds being 1.519 times higher.”
Millions of Indians entered the labour market without any formal training qualification but have immense experience. The formal educational segment is still reluctant to create and acknowledge ways to recognise their experience in the form of formal qualification opportunities, thereby ignoring the value of their work experiences. This has further led to a big social divide and social exclusion.
Many researches and studies have found that experienced workers are in high demand in the labour market due to their high productivity and low training costs. This demand for experienced workers is the reason that institutions of higher education – such as universities and universities of applied sciences.
Integrating theory and practice
Vocational education and training (VET) require the integration of practical work experience, theoretical knowledge, and strong collaboration with the industry in order to develop effective on-the-job training that is centred around VET courses and practical job role practice. This necessitates the presence of skilled trainers/teachers and high-quality infrastructure. When designing VET programmes, careful attention should be given to programmes design, curriculum framework, instructional design alignment, pedagogical alignment to taxonomies, and assessment evaluation and rubrics. It is crucial to involve the industry as academic partners to ensure industry relevance. In that context, the National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020 has provided considerable flexibility in designing VET graduate programmes.
VET initiatives must break away from traditional blueprints and require inward assessments of what models will lead to suitable and sustainable employment avenues. In India, the rates of initial employment and wage are promising but see a gradual decline over the years, and unless the appropriate adjustments in the models are not created with an open, innovative mind, the sustainability of the skills and VET programmes will become a challenge. Policymakers need to formulate curriculums and training in a manner that ensures sustainability in terms of employment and produces graduates that possess the skills to adapt to emerging needs and technologies.