India is standing on the threshold of becoming the world’s fastest-growing economy. With more than half of its population under the age of 25, India is home to one of the world’s largest talent pools. However, this demographic dividend also presents unique challenges that need to be addressed promptly. The key concern among them is to equip this young workforce with skills and knowledge relevant to rapidly evolving industry scenarios, driven by technological advancements and digital communication.
Author : Mr. Pravesh Dudani, Founder and Chancellor, Medhavi Skills University
The Current Indian Education Scenario
Traditional academia in India has shown a lag in imparting updated knowledge and technical skills to the youth. Additionally, there are serious challenges in nurturing essential life skills, especially when the basic competencies such as numeracy, comprehension, and communication are not up to the mark. This gap has resulted in significant challenges in hiring, skilling, upskilling, reskilling, and retaining the workforce, leading many industries to allocate significant training and recruitment budgets to address these areas.
New National Education Policy (NEP 2020)
With the advent and rollout of the New National Education Policy 2020 and the New National Credit Framework (NCrF), a window of opportunity has opened up for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Industries to collaborate more profoundly for the training and development of the workforce required for the rapid growth. The government has also stepped in to incentivise industries, offering financial incentives through various schemes like the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS) or the innovative Flexi MoU scheme by DGT which offers an opportunity for Industries to hire trainees for two years and also make them earn a CTS ITI certification alongside.
“The future of higher education in India necessitates a strong and sustainable industry-academia collaboration. Such an alliance ensures curriculums align with industry requirements and trends, equipping students with job-specific skills and fostering an environment of practical learning.”
The power of on-the-job training and apprenticeships
These innovative schemes empower the industry to host a trainee for on-the-job training for a duration ranging from 6 months to as high as 3 years, during which they can earn academic credits against their practical training and professional experience earned. Moreover, these OJT / formal Apprenticeships can now be embedded within the academic curriculum of Universities as credit bearing component of the programme curriculum under the provisions of the newly launched NCrF. Upon acquiring the required minimum credits, a candidate can earn a full-fledged Diploma or a regular Degree from the University. Such models can significantly uplift the Gross Enrolment Ratio in a country like India where it is still lagging at less than 30%.
“This approach also enables flexible learning pathways, making education more accessible and achievable. It acknowledges that not every learner follows the same trajectory and that each student should be given the opportunity to leverage their unique strengths, interests, and circumstances.”
“Moreover, this model advocates for a shift from supply-driven education to demand-driven. By aligning academic curricula with industry demands, we can better prepare our youth for the job market, subsequently reducing unemployment and underemployment.“
Countries like Germany have successfully implemented such innovative models for decades, facilitated by government councils that promote and coordinate a dual model of education in partnership with industries. It’s high time that India looks to these successful implementations and adapts to similar models, tailored to our unique context.
A win-win for all stakeholders (candidate / industry / academia)
For candidates embarking on a skills-based Degree, Diploma, or Certificate program in collaboration with an industry, this model presents a compelling prospect. They acquire practical, up-to-the-minute expertise and skills on the job while simultaneously contributing to the organization’s productivity and service outputs. On completion, they secure a UGC recognized Degree/Diploma along with NCVET recognized Skill Competency Certificates. Additionally, receiving stipends during their on-the-job training makes this proposition exceptionally affordable, notably for candidates who might otherwise struggle to finance higher education.
From the industry perspective, this model delivers multiple benefits. Primarily, it offers an excellent means to cultivate a talent pipeline, with trainees learning in accordance with industry-specific practices and needs. As trainees, they do not fall under standard labour laws, meaning industries can employ them at 20-40% lower costs than fresh hires, creating considerable savings. Furthermore, as apprenticeship and on-the-job training are components of skill development and employment enhancement, companies under the CSR umbrella can include these expenses within their CSR initiatives.
It might also interest you to read: The National Credit Framework (NCrF): A potential game-changer for India’s Education System
As for academia, the mandate of the New National Education Policy (NEP 2020) emphasizes the importance and need for the integration of vocational and skills-based education into the academic curriculum. Given that academia struggles to keep pace with the dynamic demands of industry skill sets, there is no better way for students to acquire relevant experience and skills than by working as trainees within their chosen fields. This approach aligns with the New National Credit Framework (NCrF) and Higher Education Qualifications Framework (NHEQF) ‘s objectives, the latest guidelines put forth by the Education Policymakers, the UGC and NCVET. These steps will enable institutions to incorporate the graduate attributes stipulated by this framework, thus fostering a more robust and future-ready higher education ecosystem.
A call to industry leaders
As a strong advocate of work-integrated higher education and in charge of a pioneering skills university, I urge industry leaders and associations to adopt these innovative work-integrated programs in collaboration with Higher Education or Vocational Education Institutions of your choice. This symbiotic relationship will not only bridge the gap between theoretical education and practical industry needs but will also equip our youth with practical skills, ensuring that they are job-ready from day one.
India is on the cusp of a new era of industry-led higher education that can potentially transform the country into “Kaushal Bharat –> Saksham Bharat –> Atmanirbhar Bharat”. This is an exciting new paradigm that calls for the joint effort of academia, industry, and government. Together, we can ensure that the young population of India is not only a demographic statistic but a force that drives the nation’s growth story.
*The author is the Founder and Chancellor of Medhavi Skills University which is a pioneering institution duly recognised by UGC, NCVET, DGT and NSDC and is advocating and implementing innovative models of integrating vocational and Skill based Education into our Higher Education ecosystem.