Vocational courses must meet the demand of the evolving employment scenario
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has promised to focus on expanding and adding value to vocational education, and we hope the state government pursues this goal sincerely as the fast changing local and global employment scenario demands more and more appropriately skilled manpower. The Sawant government has decided to create skill-based vocational courses which will be intended to help those trained in them get jobs easily. The government will design the courses also keeping in mind the scope of vertical mobility of the students opting for vocational courses. That would indeed be great as many of the vocational courses in the state’s schools and industrial training institutions (ITIs) are still traditional and stock types. For long the state government has talked of matching the skill needs of the industry with the vocational courses, but it has never happened. The industry has solved the mismatch by providing training to the recruits itself. Of course, vocational courses cannot be tailored to every particular industry or every factory’s need: they have to broadly conform to the skill requirements of the changing times. The problem with vocational courses has been not keeping pace with the changing scenarios. A number of students opting for vocational courses fail to find jobs in the streams they studied. The same is the case with those passing out from the industrial training institutes.
Though Goa has witnessed growth in industrial and allied activities, the number of industrial training institutes run by the government has remained stagnant at 10 for decades. Some new courses have been added over the years, but there are other courses with little scope for employment in the present-day context that are still being taught. By continuing with these courses such as plumber, turner, fitter and machinist the government appears to be training youth who cannot find employment in the industries of the times where technologies and processes are changing; they have to opt for self-employment to put their skills to use. The redesigning of the vocational courses that the Chief Minister has promised now should have been done periodically during the past decades.
However, better late than never. The Mopa airport would soon become a reality but the courses, especially of longer duration like electronics, air conditioning and refrigeration, which could help local youth get jobs there are yet to be started. Though a memorandum of understanding has been signed between the state government and the consortium that is building and will operate the airport, the government has to remember that the consortium would not wait for them to start vocational courses at their leisure; they would find trained manpower from other states if they cannot find the same in Goa. Such a situation can be avoided by starting the right courses from the upcoming academic year. Many industries in the state have been hiring youth from other states to meet their requirement of manpower as the state does not have qualified personnel to man the jobs.
In times when unemployment is high in the state, a situation that has been compounded by the shutdown of and lowered production and layoffs in industrial units and other businesses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the state government has a special responsibility to create skill courses that would make those who pass them indispensable to their employers by virtue of possessing good specific skills. A number of Goans employed overseas have returned to the state owing to layoff during the pandemic and they may face a bleak future unless opportunities for alternative employment are created for them. The state government should not go ahead and expand the scope of vocational courses based on the intelligence and inputs of the bureaucrats alone. The government must take the representatives of various industries on board for brainstorming before they decide what new courses or what changes in the currently offered courses they should train the youth in. The government must also take into account the fact that several employers now look for workers with multiple skills to cut down on labour costs. The big challenge before the Sawant government is to create the educational and training infrastructure for creating manpower with multiple skills as well as specific new skills that are in demand.