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Where do you want to take your career?
student life is full of confusions. Choosing the right career is a difficult and the most important decision that has to br taken in this confused period of life. Today there is an array of exciting opportunities offered by vocational education.
In our current day scenario, wherein the scramble to study 10'2, followed by a BA, B.Com or BSc is the "done thing", very little attention, is given to vocational education and training (VET). However, several experts and educationists maintain that VET is a topic that deserves far more attention than what it currently receives in India, from students, parents or policy makers.

In fact, it is an avenue which could well open up an abundance of opportunities for youngsters looking to set up themselves up in life, though unfortunately India has yet to put together a sufficient infrastructure for this. Equally unfortunately, the mindset of the average Indian is just not tuned onto the vocational education track. Apart from IT, a person pursuing a vocational course in India is generally regarded as one who has not made it in any other field and has turned to VET as another option.

Indian scene
"IT and software is the only vocational course which is of international quality in India. It has 50,000 or more IT training institutes. It's basically a question of the market forces regulating the demand and supply says Krishan Khanna, IIT graduate and founder chairman of i Watch, Mumbai, an NGO set up as a citizens movement towards the transformation of India, which is pushing forcefully for the promotion of VET in the country.

It is a significant to note that while India has 6,000 vocational schools under the ministry of HRD, China has five lakh vocational training higher secondary schools, while in Australia, more than 200,000 pupils are taking vocational courses while in secondary school itself.

"Ninety to 95 per cent of the youth in these countries after or before the 10th opt for vocational training where they work part-time (at minimum wages) as apprentices with industry and trade for two to four years and study simultaneously in a vocational training institute in order to pick up both theory and knowledge. This way, business and trade gets low cost manpower for two to four years while the youth learns a new trade. The combination results in world-class skilled youth," says Khanna.

Need to change
According to Khanna, Indian needs VET for the sake of Employment generation and improving the economy to international levels of efficiency and productivity Presently 26 million people enter the education system every year. Only 1.6 million make it to higher education. They mostly have options in commerce, arts, science, law, engineering, medical and management. The balance 24,4 million need vocational education and entrepreneurship skills development. Today, while the organisational efficiency and productivity of apex and mid level managers in Indian and western industry are on par, the critical factor which accounts for the huge gulf between the economies of the developed countries and the third world is probably shop-floor skills and productivity.

Supported by a tried and tested network of vocational institutions and trade guilds churning out highly skilled workers trained in frontier technologies, western corporates constantly record productivity increases, which are many multiples of their Indian counterparts.

As per Khanna, India requires an entire spectrum of skilled manpower in a myriad of fields including agriculture, healthcare, tourism industry, fishery and hundreds of skills for the manufacturing sector. "VET, if skillfully put into place in the country could build a background for a situation where India could build up a formidable work force of international quality which would have demand not only in India but in all countries," he emphasises.

Considering this background, what is the best course for a student or indeed any 'individual to take to build up a solid professional future for him or her?

In spite of a limited awareness and a narrow scope of vocational courses in the country, there is yet a variety to choose from, which is growing at a steady pace. Experts comment that students would do well to take advantage of these programs. "Most contemporary university courses enhance students' knowledge of subjects but fail to develop skills necessary for the application of such knowledge. It is low levels of skills literacy that keeps the educated unemployed registers full across the country. An ideal career plan should incorporate both academic learning and skills literacy," says Gideon Arulmani, a well-known Bangalore based clinical psychologist and career counselor.

Concurs Khanna, "Prepare yourself for a vocation of your choice and for a vocation which holds a future. For starters you can learn a foreign language. A solid knowledge of German, French, Japanese or Spanish can ensure a bright future for you."

He also recommends that youngsters look at courses in international trading, in retailing or at anything to do with travel and tourism or in the field of healthcare. Newer perspectives point towards more offbeat vocations, which are speedily getting known as lucrative professions to get into. For instance jewellery designing and other jewellery related courses are fast gaining popularity.

Comments Renu Kapoor, director of the recently opened Indian Institute of Jewellery in Mumbai which has tied up with the well-established California Institute of Jewellery Training, "Not only do our students get a certificate jointly issued by both the institutes, but more importantly we have campus recruitment and our first batch has had a 100 per cent placement record, many of them with such leading names as Adora and InterCarat."

Indeed, in spite of a limited scope as compared to many other countries of the world, there is a wide range of possibilities for vocational education, which could ensure a bright professional future for individuals today.
While some can be pursued side-by-side with another course of study, or a job with flexible timings, others might require more dedicated time commitments. For instance, the Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training (FIAT), which offers a 1 year Diploma in aviation, hospitality and travel management requires students to attend classes 2 hours a day, 5 days a week. FIAT has had a huge placement rate since its inception in 1997.

On the other hand, the Wigan & Leigh College India which commenced its Indian operations in 1996, currently offers a slew of vocational courses in a variety of fields like fashion technology, media, hospitality etc. in five Indian cities, each course demanding varying lengths and patterns of time commitment.

Then there are the government Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) which are located in all major cities and towns of the country and which provide courses ranging from stenography and secretarial practice to those for electricians, machinists, instrument mechanics and machine grinding, free of cost.

The possibilities, when one gets down to exploring them, are really exciting, notwithstanding the fact that we got off to a late start. From the India International Trade Center (Mumbai) to the Vogue Institute of Fashion Technology (Bangalore), there's quite a plateful to choose from. Just reach out and get it.
Posted on : 14/1/2006
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