Guest Author: Ranjan Choudhury, Head Partnerships, Vocational Education, TCS iON
Plumber, Fitter, Carpenter, Electrician – these are the courses that come to our mind when we think of ITIs. ITIs, however, have moved beyond the typical trades that prepare the youth to become semi-skilled or skilled workers in traditional job roles. Even though most courses under the Craftsman Training Scheme (CTS) cater to the services industry and there is a provision to include Industry 4.0 and Drone Technology, the general perception of ITIs is limited to a few trades.
The fact that several ITIs have many more courses in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing categories is hardly known to students who aspire for good quality technical training that can land them jobs with respectable salaries. Besides awareness, the image of an ITI is an issue. Since, today, technical training and education must adopt new ways to design and deliver courses that meet the dynamic demands of the industry. And, what about placements? How often do we hear the course completion story of students who excel, innovate and perform well on the job and get appreciated by the industry?
Answers to these questions will help in understanding how the courses can be made aspirational, attractive and relevant. Let’s look at five imperatives that can open up new thought and action to build the aspirational elements in ITI courses:
21st Century branding and awareness
The future of any education and training institution depends on the number of students it attracts and the quality of training it delivers. On this account, ITIs need to fast-track their reforms to stay relevant and reinvent to meet the aspirations of multiple stakeholders – industry, students, trainers, parents and principals of ITIs (technical training leadership – currently lacking) and make it sustainable, profitable and relevant.
This could be a business imperative for private ITIs – all the more so because the cost of technical training is high and it cannot be subsidised drastically. And this impacts the course fee and its affordability.
Branding the courses as an ideal option for school dropouts, low achievers, ITIs have already limited their outreach. By confining it to a certain group of students, the image of technical training is further lowered and devalues its social acceptance. Therefore, there is a need for ITIs to offer programs in trending topics to attract students from all walks.
Sustainable industry collaboration
In an ideal setup, ITIs are expected to work closely with the industry and many ITIs are located in close proximity to industry clusters. Since technical training needs a continuous collaboration with various industry sectors for it to be of high quality, we need innovative approaches to break new grounds. Setting up an Institute Management Committee (IMC) under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) has been one of the key initiatives in this regard.
However, not all ITIs could accomplish such partnerships with large companies. While it may be unrealistic to expect large corporate organizations to ‘adopt’ many more ITIs and strengthen the ecosystem, we need to probe how medium and small enterprises can be encouraged to partner. Can we engage them through apprenticeships and faculty development programs in ITIs that are close to their industrial premises?
Technology adoption and phygital model
Many doubts regarding the feasibility of offering technical training through online mode are put to rest with the COVID-19 push to use technology. With blended and phygital forms of learning, today’s technical training can be re-imagined and implemented at scale, without compromising on quality.
Nevertheless, for many ITIs, establishing a strong and robust technology system could be out of reach both financially and operationally. And, it’s quite a challenge to explore and secure funding to build it from scratch. It makes good business sense for them to partner with established, leading players in online training and design blended models for course delivery for anytime-anywhere learning using any device.
New-age technical courses and capacity building
With the emergence of digital enterprises, every industry is getting disrupted through the innovative use of technology. This has a clear impact on the job roles that ITI students can aspire for. In fact, one of the strategies to attract students is to offer courses that are trending with an optimal balance of theory and practical learning.
How do we implement suitable changes in the curriculum and build capacity to offer new-age courses? How do we enable ITIs to initiate such changes, especially when the focus is on enabling all the students to appear for the All-India Trade Test (AITT) to get NCVT certificate? What about upskilling of instructors in relevant disciplines? The answer, to a large extent, lies in continuous industry-ITI interaction and engagement that’s goes beyond student placements.
Multi-skilling for the new world of work
The changing world of work fuelled by the gig economy necessitates a re-look at how the courses can be bundled and presented to the students. Instead of focusing on a set of skills pertaining to a job role, we should rather explore if a course can be designed for multi-sector employment.
For example, students of the Auto Technician course can benefit if they can get training in being a Solar Technician as well to help switch to a different job if need be. Along with it, a well-curated module in life skills or 21st-century skills such as building resilience, agility and other transferable skills can prepare them for the future workplace.
In addition, implementing NSQF-aligned credits and options for equivalence through NIOS courses would complement efforts towards enhancing the value of ITI courses.
The points above discussed the five imperatives to transform the image and outcome of technical training in India, especially the common perception of courses offered by various ITIs. For many private ITIs, it would open up new avenues to increase their intake and engage with the industry for collaborative innovation and sustainable impact.
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