The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and work. It has disrupted our lives and a new normal might be in place in a few months or longer. To understand the big picture of how COVID-19 could be a game changer in the field of vocational education and training, and how it is going to affect the migrant workers and their livelihood across the country, we caught up with Dr. Gayathri Vasudevan, CEO, LabourNet Services.
The objective of this Skill Talk is to invite your views and action points to re-think and strengthen the evolving Vocational Education system in India. Let’s read on…
Vocational Education and Training in India
We are all aware that Vocational Education never took off in India, the way it was planned. It has never been on an equal footing with regular degree courses. Therefore, COVID-19 pandemic could probably be a major game changer.
Vocational Training involves working manually and it calls for high levels of hand dexterity. Today, we see a huge demand for frontline workers who need different skills. The philosophy for the Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has always been that it should be taught face-to-face, in a classroom.
Interestingly, when we look at how the job market perceives vocational education, we see that the market has always appreciated a person with work experience. Training, per se, hasn’t been a distinguishing factor to land a job. Hence, practical training never gave you a wage advantage, but work experience did. Today, 90% of people who are practicing the vocation are the ones who learned the skill outside the system!
Impact of COVID-19 on Vocational Education and Training
Many things are going to change because of COVID-19 in skilling and TVET space. One drastic change is the classroom strength; a classroom which could accommodate 30 students earlier, may now accommodate only 10 of them, following the norm of social distancing.
With advancements in technology, hybrid models of learning will evolve. Till now, most of our education system was either face-to-face or online. But, hybrid learning is where one can do both virtual learning as well as practical training. Training providers can look to hire spaces where practical training and on-the-job training can be provided. Rest of the knowledge transfer could be done through online classes. Therefore, entire knowledge accumulation and communication can be done through a combination of online and practical sessions.
We will also see an impact on the role of vocational trainers. They could be hired by hours. This would bring in a positive change in creating job opportunities. Earlier, many had a dilemma of how to invite industry experts for guest lectures, now it may become easy to have them as experts and adjunct faculty.
Training partners and industry can closely collaborate on delivering practical training. While the industry experts can be a part of the practical sessions, there can also be a provision for common spaces to conduct practical sessions. While the industry can use this as an augmented business model, it will directly benefit the students who will be ensured of hands-on learning.
We have to evangelize the concept of hybrid education and reposition vocation. How we are going to capitalise this depends on how we are going to articulate the vocation. If we provide vocation in this manner with excellence and quality, everybody can get into a virtual classroom. This will be the game changer for the world of vocational education in India.
Technology-enabled learning and future workplace
When you try to recreate the larger picture of TVET and future workplace , we are aware that there’s been a gradual impact of latest technologies on jobs. We’ve seen how automation has either replaced or changed many job roles creating a need for reskilling and upskilling. We hear about call-centre personnel being replaced, how automotive industry is going to be more mechanised, etc. However, in today’s context, technology has added another dimension and this has to do with how vocational training is going to be designed and delivered by using various technologies,
Post-COVID-19 could see a vast change in the way we train and certify the candidates. Till now, formal recognition of skills and certification did not matter in a significant way. In fact, at the entry or lower level, the workforce did not need any certificate. In contrast, future belongs to those who are professionally trained and adept at using latest technologies at work. This poses a twin challenge of technology adoption for training as well as preparing for emerging job roles at workplace.
Related article: Trainers from LabourNet Skill Development Center, Hosur – Read more: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/prabhat-labournet-skill-development/
Impact of COVID-19 on migrant workers’ livelihoods
Cities and industries are going to face worker-deficit in the coming months. In the short-term, shortage of labour could be a serious issue in the cities.
To address this, the labour laws may change. But this time, the focus would be different. Workers’ living conditions and work conditions were never perfect in India. Therefore, the focus of labour laws might shift to occupational safety and health, both in working and living conditions. Individual workers may benefit because of this change.
On the other hand, if labour force becomes a shortage, wages may go up. If areas which require labour, face a shortage, then the labour would have an upper hand and their wages might go up. worker surplus states like Bihar, Odisha, etc. have skilled labourers who have come back home. But this happen at the cost of losing their network, which they developed while working in the other states. Therefore, to bring back the skilled workforce to work, the government expenditure must increase. Government should rethink MGNREGA, other schemes and all other infrastructure expenses.
Relooking at possibilities for migrant workers
Many migrant workers went to their homes, which mostly fall under the economically backward districts. We need to look at creating work opportunities closer home. If a worker was skilled in construction, he/she could probably involve themselves in constructing warehouses, which could transform the cold storage facilities of that location. Masons, electricians and plumbers who have gone back to their villages can be used effectively in constructing infrastructure which was absent till now.
With the need for more and more people to stay home, the e-commerce and the logistics industry is exploding with innovative needs. Unless we have a significant amount of infrastructure in place, we are going to have problems in multiple areas. For agriculture products to reach other places and the market, the logistics and infrastructure development could be the answer.
Health infrastructure has to be improved if COVID-19 has to be controlled. Every sub-sector must be augmented with fabrication to meet the current needs. Telemedicine, electricians and plumbers, etc. and every other job role can be identified with a geographical place to come up with skills that are available and skills that are absent. This will help us in coming up with solutions proactively.