By Shubika Bilkha
The higher education framework in India has come into question as reports indicate that the majority of graduates are deemed unemployable. An Aspiring Minds Employability Report released in 2016 suggested that only 20% of the 1.5 lakh engineering graduates surveyed were in fact employable. The proliferation of industry focused vocational training institutes and the thrust of the government and private sector towards vocational education as a way to boost ‘job ready’ skillsets is indicative of a significant gap in the school to industry transition process.This is particularly concerning in a Country like India, where 50% of our population is under the age of 25 years.
A number of graduates today are left with little choice but to opt for vocational training programs that promise some form of a look-in to employers on their completion. For the families of these students, the cost of higher education significantly increases. They not only need to be able to financially service a University degree, but also budgetfor either voc-ed program to improve the graduate’s employment prospects.
In other countries such as Germany, there is equal weightage to vocational education in the realm of employability. In India, however, the majority of employers look for a graduate degree in addition to a vocational program during their selection process. In fact, there continues to be a gap in the perception about the quality, relevance and educational outcomes of these programs in the minds of employers. A recent TeamLease survey indicated that 70% of employers felt that the quality of training in vocational institutes was below par and 72% found the quality of candidates from these programs unsatisfactory.
Having run and advised vocational training institutes over the last few years, I understand the dilemma faced by students and their families when assessing the viability of a voc-ed program. After counselling a number of students over the years on the recommended path post graduation, I have made a list of the key points to consider before signing up for a vocational program:
Credibility:Education is a long-term investment is one’s future and candidates should ensure that they research the organization and the industry carefully online, across the educational media and among friends/family/industry networks before they make their selection. Institutes who have a reputed Management Team, Advisory Council, well known faculty, a robust Alumni network and a long-term track record for quality education are recommended.
Quality of Placements/Internships: While a number of vocational programs offer placement assistance, candidates should be discerning to assess the actual employer mix. This means that candidates should get a better sense of how many large/blue chip organizations recruit from the institute, versus startups and smaller enterprises. Furthermore, it is important that candidates select institutes where a particular emphasis is placed on getting them ‘job-ready’ with placement sessions, psychometrics, interviewing skills and other soft skills development.
Learning Outcomes, Relevance and Faculty: Vocational programs are structured to provide students with a strong foundation in their preferred industry for them to build a lucrative career. Whether its technical, business or entrepreneurial skills, students should select programs that have a clear learning outcome and are taught by industry experts and reputed faculty. The curriculum and content of programs must be dynamic and supplemented by well researched case studies and industry interactions. Institutes that invest in Research and Developmentare recommended as they evolve with the industry.
Accreditation: Students should select programs that have a University, EducationAuthority (UGC, AICTE etc), NSDC, Industry or a Renowned International Accreditation. Checking the accreditation of an institute through a 3rd party is recommended. Remember, your certificate should add to your personal brand equity for the rest of your career!
Industry Connect:Vocational programs should be premised on industry requirements and evolve as the industry transforms. Hence, it is particularly important that Vocational institutes demonstrate key industry relationships and partnerships with relevant associations. There should also be industry representatives on the Advisory Council and across the Faculty/Visiting Experts.
About the Author- Shubika Bilkha : Shubika has an ideal blend of corporate experience and entrepreneurship in India and Internationally. Her experience of over 12 years spans the finance, technology, ecommerce, education and real estate sectors. As the managing Director of two early stage start-ups in technology and education, she has hands on experience in strategy, execution, operations management, marketing, sales and customer experience, HR, recruitment and finance.
Shubika is a published author and a prominent media spokesperson for the real estate and education sectors having contributed to publications, portals, panels/events, the radio and television channels in India. Shubika is an alumna of Mount Holyoke College, USA and Columbia Business School, USA; an Associate Member of the Chartered Securities Institute (CSI) in the UK; and has completed the “Building Excellence in Higher Educational Institutions” at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.