When we think of vocational education, we immediately think of low-skilled, low paying jobs – a trade, as such, for those people who are not able to get into colleges and universities. Indeed, in India, there is a social stigma associated with vocational training and vocational education and this is one reason why the infrastructure for vocational education in the country has not kept pace with traditional academic institutions or institutes, which offer professional courses.
This is where India differs from the developed world, where vocational pursuits and education are treated as important as mainstream courses.
One thing that people should realise is that unlike academic studies, which are for the most part theoretical, vocational education actually prepares people for jobs or to take up a trade – such as an electrician, plumber, auto mechanic and so on. In our social hierarchy however, these kinds of jobs are not seen as ‘upper-class’ or in the modern parlance ‘aspirational’ and as such are looked down upon. This is a totally mistaken impression.
As everyone would know, the new BJP-led government has laid an ambitious target of imparting vocational skills to 500 million people by 2020 – that is, in the next five years. At present, our existing capacity for vocational skills is just about over a million. So you can imagine the huge gap that exists between what is required and what is available.
Coming back to our argument about the need for vocational education, let us look at what is happening in India. New modern, state-of-the art office complexes are coming up; residential projects and apartments are mushrooming; malls are being set up all over the place; automobile companies are rapidly expanding their service networks while new entrants are looking at India as a market to explore; manufacturing companies (across all industry sectors) within India are growing swiftly.
Starting right from the bottom at the shop-floor level and upwards, there is an urgent need for skilled technicians. Compared to academic education, the chances of getting a job after acquiring a vocational skill are higher. This is because the training in a vocational institute, is practical in nature and specialised. There is a particular job associated with a particular skill.
Yes, it is true that the wages after getting a vocational training may be lower than what professionals would get, but then look at the advantages – you start working at a younger age; you can upgrade your skills along the way and you have every opportunity of working your way up. Also remember, you learn more while you are on the job, rather than wasting time learning a lot of theory which is of no practical use. Skilled technicians are also in demand all over the world, which means that job opportunities overseas will also open up for you, if you have a vocational education.