The launch of Digital India can provide the much-needed boost to our efforts in vocational training and skill development. Let’s see how it can benefit the learner, the training providers and the industry segments in being cost effective and efficient.
Being digital, being skilled
Rama Murthy is a highly skilled carpenter, completely dedicated to his family profession of carpentry. Today, he works with a team of 20 people, handling various projects in home and office interiors. People working with him, all school dropouts, have been trained by him, absolutely on the job. Though all of them use mobile phones, only a few were comfortable with texting and browsing. Rama Murthy is highly impressed with the ease with which they can access videos on their phones and curious to know if he can watch something related to carpentry that can help on his job…why not!
Especially in learning manual skills, digital technologies can complement formal and informal vocational training in several ways. For people like Rama Murthy it would be a boon to learn new developments in his trade while working. He can also share this knowledge with his team. Being digital opens up a whole new world of learning for skilling at the right moment, when it knowledge can be applied on the job. There are many ways in which digital technologies can be integrated in the skill development programs as a means of delivery that is quick, efficient and cost effective. Following are some of the benefits:
Leveraging Digital India initiative: The national initiative to digitize India includes several plans to improve accessibility of digital technologies and embed them in various administrative tasks. The same can be extended to vocational training and skilling by creating awareness about how digital content can be created and shared, especially using open source tools and free tools and cloud computing. The telecom sector can play a crucial role in facilitating skill development through better and easily affordable high-bandwidth Internet, particularly the Wi-Fi connectivity.
Virtual on the job training: All manual jobs require huge amounts of practical training modules. And, these tasks form a critical component of any on the job training program. Let’s assume we are offering a training program in manufacturing skills, in automotive industry to be more specific. What if the technicians are not able to try out the task on the actual cars or bikes. Digital simulation of vehicle machinery is a good way to introduce them to hands on learning. They can learn and practice in a simulated environment, without fear of making mistakes and repeat the tasks any number of times at their own convenience.
Better learner engagement: When the learners have already adopted digital technology for communication and entertainment, like using mobile phones and emails, it is easy to introduce training content like videos and games. They will gradually begin to enjoy learning from this medium. For instance, in the case of Rama Murthy, since his team mostly comprises school dropouts we cannot expect them to read long textual material on the Web or perform complex interactive task on their mobile phones, they would be comfortable with learning how to improve their skills by viewing demos and relevant stories.
Not just a delivery medium: Digital technologies offer various means of delivering training. Content developed for digital format can be easily accessed from desktop computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The same devices can be used for content creation; it doesn’t require specialized technical knowledge. Look at the way people take pictures and videos from their mobile devices, the same can be done while learning. If a plumber has found a better way to fix the problem, he can create a video and share it. Similarly, there can be many instances of informal learning that can be captured this way and added to the content repository.
Access to anytime, anywhere learning: Attending training programs is not possible always. It takes away time from their work. For many manual workers, it would be great if they can learn anytime anywhere and most importantly, at the critical moment when they need information and instruction to perform a task. Digital learning can definitely provide this convenience and it can also ensure that the training content is of consistent quality and meets the standards. This way, it will ensure far wider outreach, even to the places trainers cannot go physically and deliver the training programs.
The buzz around Digital India can best be used by training providers and vocational schools to go ahead and explore this medium to complement their classroom training. Besides making learning enjoyable and relevant, this is sure to expand the outreach and strengthen the skilled workforce. Digital India and skill development definitely go together!
Disclaimer: This write-up assumes basic digital literacy like using mobile phones and to some extent emails, by the manual workers mentioned.
Picture credit: http://www.sharana.org/tag/carpentry/ (for the picture showing the carpentry work)