Shri Vishwakarma Skill University aims to enhance employability through industry-integrated courses

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Shri Vishwakarma Skill University, Haryana will soon get a campus of its own. However, the first state-level, government skill university did not have to wait for a full-fledged campus to start their programs. The university has already created a positive impact through innovative courses that align with industry needs. In this Skill Story, Raj Nehru, Vice Chancellor, Shri Vishwakarma Skill University (SVSU) and Managing Director – Haryana Skill Development Mission (Government of Haryana), shares his passionate efforts to make a difference in higher education through skill-based courses. Let’s read on…

The need for a skill university in Haryana

We are all aware that traditional learning models in India had a strong vocational component with emphasis on practical learning following the guru-shishya tradition. But, during the pre-independence era, the curriculum was revamped to meet the needs of the British government. This has continued even after independence and created a huge gap between skills and education, seriously affecting the employability of youth and relevance of education in modern India.

Today, it is imperative to inculcate a purpose in learning through skills and job-orientation to meet the needs of the industry and contribute to the economy by leveraging our demographic dividend. Shri Vishwakarma Skill University, Haryana is focused on addressing the needs of the entire spectrum of skill-based education through many innovative initiatives. This includes offering industry-aligned work-integrated learning at Degree level, setting up feeder schools at the secondary level and finishing schools at the graduate and post-graduate levels. We will also set up incubation centers for promoting entrepreneurship and impart future skills by facilitating continuous learning.

My passion for building social assets and contributing to the development agenda of India are the prime drivers to work in the area of enhancing youth employability through skills. Besides, Haryana has a huge number of unemployed youth who need proper direction and guidance to find jobs and our educational outcomes are not aligned to the dynamics of the job market. Shri Vishwakarma Skill University is thus aligned with my personal value system and it is also the need of the hour. 

Shri Vishwakarma Skill UniversityThe foundation stone of Shri Vishwakarma Skill University, will be laid by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi on 19th Nov, 2018. The design of the campus, within a layout of more than 2.5 lakh square meterst, is inspired by the Chariot from the Bhagwad Gita; the total project cost is estimated at Rs.959 crore. This University will focus on meeting the skill demands of the state in the current and emerging industry sectors like Manufacturing, Textiles, Automobile, IT, Healthcare, Construction, Banking and Finance, Marketing, Hospitality, Agriculture, and others.

Skill University Haryana

Picture source: SVSU Facebook page

The campus will develop a Center of Excellence (CoE) in collaboration with the industry partners and our goal is to make the youth employable and empower them to be productive from day one. Our faculty members are completely industry-aligned and they are trained in vocational pedagogy. Moreover, people with skills and knowledge can also volunteer and contribute in the form of expert faculty, delivering guest lectures or by providing technology support. We plan to make extensive use of technology to communicate with the students and counselling for setting the right expectations.

The pedagogy, methodology and curriculum will also focus on optional subjects besides domain and core subjects to include Yoga, moral education, values and leadership skills. This will enable students to get holistic education and prepare them as better citizens. Recently, 14 of our students participated in the WorldSkills competition and 7 qualified at the state level, 4 at the regional level and 2 students have qualified at the national level. 

Challenges, gaps and issues in imparting skill-based education

First, there is a perceptual gap. Industry is facing challenges of talent crunch and lack of skilled resources. While jobs are waiting for skilled candidates, the university is either not aware of the industry requirements or existence of many job roles. This widens the gap between the perceptions of the industry and the academia. It has a cascading effect since, even today, universities don’t focus on skill-based curriculum in order to address the requirements of the industry to make students employable.

One of the biggest challenges is the vocational paradigm itself. The moment you mention skills the perception is that of a carpenter, an electrician or an auto mechanic. And these professions are presumably meant for students who are either school dropouts or haven’t been able to pursue higher education. The challenge is to change this mindset. Parents would not want their children to take up vocational courses since they feel it is at the lowest realm and lacks respect and dignity.

Besides the social issues, as of today in India, skill-based training is suffering from lack of progression pathways. The students hit a dead end after getting a certificate without any clarity or guidance on progression. In addition, there is an issue with parity of certificates. Who does the student compare with in general education if he or she has acquired skills as per NSQF levels. Another challenge is that of practice, skill education was brought about with the idea of getting them practice in whatever they do it is not chalk and talk model, but if you go across and see the institutions there is not much of practical training.

Most importantly, skills are not aspirational because they don’t become an essential part of the qualifications for a job roles and its selection criteria. And, there is no wage premium associated with formal skill certification.

In the backdrop of these reasons how does it matter to the industry whether it is the school or the university or some other organisation that provides skill-based learning? The supply side can have many identities but we a comprehensive framework to concpetualize and deliver skill-based education. This is where the need for a university becomes critical and relevant.

Shri Vishwakarma Skill University – youth and industry aspirations

Just like product lifecycle, universities also have a lifecycle and today, many universities have matured in their lifecycle. You need to enhance their maturity level, one way of doing this is by repositioning them by introducing skill university. There will be a difference in the way they operate, this will happen only when there is tremendous clarity to create the sustainable impact through industry-integrated education.

We started our courses even without a campus or an office, by conducting a survey of youth and industry aspirations. We studied almost 20000 students from ITIs, polytechnics, colleges and schools. almost 60% of the respondents said there is an aspiration to become a graduate. 75% said they want to study but it should have on the job training. 82% said they want to study but there should be earning. 60% agricultural students said they do not want to pursue a career in agriculture. 72% said they are willing to relocate. 97% said they have 1 or 2 skills but no certification.We met 200 industry organisations and analysed their best practices. We also studied vocational courses and B.Voc programs to understand the curriculum and how it meets the needs of the industry.

 The curriculum and its relevance to the industry

After studying all the changes we designed a new curriculum with 3 year graduate program in Automotive Manufacturing and Automotive Mechatronics. Hero Motocorp provided us the space and we converted it into a classroom. Our faculty members were also trained by Hero Motocorp. The job roles were mapped with NSQF levels and 12 credits were awarded for classroom learning, along with 6 credits for the workshop and 6 credits for on-the-job training. The entire duration of the training was 1000 hours in a year.

We are also focused on making our courses gender inclusive, in fact, SVSU broke the stereotype at Hero Motocorp when one of our female students took up a job on the shop floor. I expect more women to break such barriers through our degree programs and set new benchmarks.

In addition to work-integrated, earn-while-you-learn formats, we are also developing programs in M.Voc and Ph.D through industry research. This will bring progression , respectability and acceptance while making degrees like B.Voc and M.Voc essential or desirable qualification for getting hired. My dream is to make SVSU a leader in skill based higher education in India by meeting international standards of dual training and work integrated learning.

Our curricular framework also provides both vertical and horizontal mobility in order to make skills aspirational and restore dignity of labour. Students can start with a short-term certificate course and reach upto Ph.D depending on their interest and perseverance. They can choose the subjects from areas like core, domain-specific and electives. This has brought in options and pathways from vocational streams to general education like from B.Voc to B.Tech and so on. This mobility will help in promoting skill-based learning in higher education and eventually Ministry of Skill Development and Ministry of Human Resource Development will synchronise their efforts in integrating the two streams, but this will definitely take time.

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