“Quest Alliance is actively expanding the reach of the employability skills curriculum beyond ITIs to reach more young people. We encourage both young individuals and educators to prioritize 21st-century skills, as they are crucial for adapting to the evolving world of work. These skills play a significant role in enabling individuals to navigate and thrive amidst the ongoing changes in the job market,” Ms. Nikita Bengani, Director – Youth Program at Quest Alliance.
To learn more about the Future Right Skills Network (FRSN), employability skills curriculum, preparing ITI students for the future of work, Training of Trainers, and more, we spoke with Ms. Nikita Bengani, Director – Youth Program, Quest Alliance.
Below are a few excerpts from our conversation. You can watch the full video on our YouTube channel.
Q. Please tell us more about the Future Right Skills Network (FRSN) and how does it work?
A. The main objective of FRSN is to drive the transformation of the ITI ecosystem, which currently involves around 25 lakh young individuals across 15,000 government and private ITIs. Recognizing that system transformation is a complex and ambitious goal influenced by various factors, FRSN aims to establish a network that focuses on strengthening the system and driving collaborative change. The idea behind FRSN is to bring together multiple stakeholders, including the government, private sector, practitioners, NGOs, and influencers, onto a common platform.
This network is supported by nine state governments in partnership with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) at the main level, along with state departments of employability and training. FRSN also collaborates with donors and funding partners interested in working closely with the government to strengthen the system and bring collective action towards a common vision and problem statement.
FRSN aims to connect various organizations interested in skills development, fostering large-scale innovations, interventions, and system change within government education systems. Funding partners such as Accenture, Cisco, and JPMorgan Chase have joined FRSN to support and shape the platform’s vision. FRSN collaborates closely with nine state governments, the central government, and MSDE to drive its mission forward.
FRSN focuses on four key pillars that include:
- Digital public goods
- System Engagement and Delivery
- Knowledge and Innovation Community
- Research, Impact and Advocacy
Q. How does Quest Alliance promote technology-enabled learning and individualized approaches? What is the role of trainers in creating engaging learning environments?
A. For Quest Alliance, the introduction of technology-enabled learning is still in its early stages. The organization believes in the uniqueness of each learner’s needs and learning processes. Traditionally, learning has not been perceived as a joyful or enjoyable experience, and the focus on acquiring knowledge for its own sake has been limited. The challenge lies in ensuring that every student experiences the joy of learning and progresses at their own pace. The role of trainers or teachers in creating a relevant, engaging, and valuable learning environment is crucial.
Blended learning model for employability skills
Quest Alliance strongly supports blended learning experiences on employability skills, which consist of two key components.
- Self-led Learning Processes: It aims to empower learners with greater autonomy in their educational journeys. Quest Alliance values the creation of learning environments where individuals can take charge of their learning.
- Importance of trainers’ involvement in learning: While self-led learning is individual-oriented, engaging in group teaching and learning processes is equally essential. This highlights the significance of collaboration, group discussions, and interactive activities facilitated by trainers to enhance the learning experience.
Quest Alliance persuaded the government to shift towards technology-enabled learning as a comprehensive process rather than solely relying on textbooks. The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in highlighting the value of such experiences. Consequently, the government recognized the potential and granted permission to develop a complete employability skills module consisting of 12 modules.
Q. Are ITI teachers trained for self-paced learning and practical applications? Is there specific training provided to enhance their capabilities in these areas?
A. As per government mandate, we are conducting large-scale training of trainers for employability skills. This involves training 3,200 government ITI teachers and trainers across 3,000 government ITIs. The training approach follows the belief that trainers must experience blended learning as learners to deliver blended learning sessions effectively. By July or August 2023, every ITI is expected to have at least one trained trainer responsible for providing employability skills training. The government recognizes the importance of training trainers to implement the curriculum successfully and blended classroom models. This focus aims to equip young people with relevant employment skills and confidence to navigate the rapidly changing world of work.
Q. How were the response of students to the self-paced digital content and blended learning approach?
A. Quest Alliance works closely with MSDE, the Directorate General of Training, and principals to bring about system-wide change through programs like the Principal Leadership Program. This aims to shift mindsets towards 21st-century skills and blended learning, encouraging trainers to experiment and innovate. Students have shown great enthusiasm for using technology in their learning journeys. Their positive response and willingness to exceed expectations indicate the approach’s effectiveness. Continuous feedback from learners gathered by a dedicated team of user researchers helps refine and improve the program.
Q. How do students access the curriculum – via computers or phones? How is it accommodated for students without smartphone access? Is the setup similar to a traditional classroom?
A. ITI students predominantly access the employability skills curriculum through mobile phones. Considering their familiarity with mobile usage and on-the-go activities, we intentionally designed the content to be mobile-friendly and bite-sized. The modules are kept short, around 3-4 minutes, allowing students to consume them anytime and anywhere. The Bharat Skills Portal offers a mobile interface. The Quest app, freely downloadable from the play store, also provides access to the curriculum.
Also read: Shri Dharmendra Pradhan unveils a digital version of the Employability Skills Curriculum for ITI students https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/shri-dharmendra-pradhan-unveils-a-digital-version-of-the-employability-skills-curriculum-for-iti-students/
Q. Does Quest Alliance plan to include trending technological topics? What is the roadmap for Quest Alliance regarding this?
A. Quest Alliance has focused on preparing young people for the future of work rather than solely technical skills. Recognizing the growing integration of technology across all careers, the organization emphasizes digital literacy training, including coding, programming, and AI basics. Additionally, Quest Alliance addresses the importance of building green mindsets among ITI students. Considering the climate crisis backdrop, the organization seeks to create awareness of sustainability, environmental consciousness, and green career opportunities.