Bachelor of Vocation (B.Voc) is an excellent degree program that links the 3Es – Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship – through higher education. It is good to see B.Voc gaining popularity among students with many colleges offering job oriented courses with high market demand. However, one serious concern is about the duration and quality of the practical training and industry exposure. And this has to do with the roles and responsibilities of the university or the college, the teachers and the students.
One of the purposes of higher education is to enable youth to participate in economic activity and earn a decent livelihood through a salary, wage, self-employment or entrepreneurship. This requires genuine hands-on experience of the industry, mandated by the curriculum through 70% on-the-job training in compliance with NSQF levels. It also necessitates close collaboration with the industry and creation of new channels for continuous interaction with the students and teachers.
Viewed from the larger perspective, B.Voc opens up new opportunities to rectify some of the imbalance and lopsidedness of higher education in India, that has valued theoretical knowledge over practical learning. Are the universities ready to utilize this opportunity in the right way and maintaining the difference between regular degree programs like B.A, B.Com and B.Sc and the vocational elements of B.Voc? Let’s look at three focus areas to implement B.Voc programs successfully:
Focus on administration for efficient program management
While the university or the college may decide on the area and scope of the courses by understanding the market demand, they need to ensure that B.Voc is offered purely as a learn-and-earn course using work-integrated learning methodologies. To meet the dynamic needs of the industry, the curriculum must cater to latest developments in the field and it should be relevant to industry needs. For this, industry experts have to contribute to curriculum design and practical training by adhering to NSQF levels 5 to 7.
As a facilitator, the administrative department must ensure that the infrastructure to offer practical training is in place, either through direct partnership with the industry or through private vocational training companies. Whether the universities decide to offer courses in highly specialized subjects like Biotechnology or popular job roles in the Retail sector, they must keep their programs flexible to enable multiple entry-exit options for students and make sure that the credit system is followed systematically.
Focus on faculty development in collaboration with the industry
Faculty members have a critical role to play in delivering these programs and most of them lack knowledge and skills gained from industry work experience. They cannot follow old methods of teaching and expect new results in terms of learning outcomes and preparing students to become productive on the first day of the job. Besides practical orientation in teaching, they must interact with the industry by visiting the real workplace, talking to the people who work in different roles and build a long-term rapport.
This will help them bring the workplace focus in the classroom. The universities should consider faculty-internships in various industry sectors where the teachers spend ample time to observe, understand and reflect on the way things work in the manufacturing production unit or in the services set up. Alternatively, adjunct and visiting faculty members from the industry can team up with teachers to fill the knowledge and skill gaps.
Focus on student participation to reduce attrition
For students, B.Voc offers a wonderful opportunity to experience the real world of work before they get employed. It demands active participation and voluntary engagement, unlike other degree courses where they could just remain passive recipients. The choice of courses and the inherent flexibility will attract a large and varied number of students who can choose a course as per their natural inclination, interest or passion and become job-ready at the end of first year.
Proper orientation and counselling is necessary to prepare the students for a vocational degree program that can prepare them for a job or ignite entrepreneurial spirit in them. They have to adopt different learning strategies to try out new things, show enthusiasm and learn on their own through practical trials either through internships or short-term projects outside the college campus. The rote-learning mindset they come with, is not easy to wipe out in just a day or two! The teachers with support from the university or the college has to make conscious efforts to help them understand how hands-on learning happens and why their attitude and approach to such learning matters a lot in successful completion of the course.
Given the huge challenge of building and showing aspirational value for any vocational program in India, B.Voc could be a game changer if the universities, colleges, teachers and students adopt the right approach and method. It will also pave new way to prove how a combination of a degree with skills could be a lethal weapon to wage a war against graduate unemployment and enhance employability and inspire entrepreneurship.
Guest Author: Rajesh A R, Chairman, LabourNet Services India Pvt Ltd.
Areas of interest: Livelihoods Enablement contributing to the evolving 3E (Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship) system in India and other countries.
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