Skill Based Education at College Level in J&K

As per census 2011, the state of J & K has a population of 125 lakhs, of which 53% are males and 47 % females. Out of this population of 125 lakhs 91.35 lakh (72.79 %) live in rural areas and 34. 14 lakh (27.2 %) live in urban areas. About 70 percent of the population is below the age of 40 years. The Economic Survey Report of J&K 2016 reports that the unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir is higher than the average national unemployment rate. Nearly a quarter of its population in the age group of 18 to 29 years is unemployed, which is far more than the national rate of 13.2 percent. As per Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report graduates under the age of 24 are the ones who are adding to the rising unemployment figures of India. The report further says that unemployment rate among the graduates taken separately is 14.72 per cent during Jan – Apr 2019. In UT of J&K about 23% of the youth are jobless in urban and rural areas. The reason for this high un-employment is that there is no worthwhile manufacturing or service sector where this workforce could get their livelihood. Thus, the UT will have to create additional opportunities in the existing economy so that they are in a position to absorb more people, which will result in increase in production and productivity. This will only be possible if skilled manpower that joins these sectors brings news ideas and skill which will lead to value addition, efficiency, reduction of costs, better marketing and branding. As such need for introduction of skill-based education at College level across all Higher Education Institutions in the UT is the need of the hour.

Thus, to facilitate quality skill education in embedded form with other courses or stand alone is need of hour, which should attract attention of the planners and experts who together will develop partnership with industry, and will rope in resource persons and subject experts for identification of and missing links, training roles, skill sets to be imparted, minimum learning standards. This will enable the unemployed to achieve alternate source of employment other than government sector. The general education imparted at BA, B.Sc., B.Com. need to be connected with integration of embedded skill education to create human resource which has industry required skills and can be readily adjusted across varied industry sectors.

The skills and knowledge are the driving forces of economic growth and social development for any country. Presently, the country faces a demand-supply mismatch, as the economy needs more ‘skilled’ workforce than that is available. In the higher education knowledge with skills is required for employment in different sectors of economy – manufacturing and services. GOI taking note of the requirement for skill development among students, launched National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) through UGC and which was later on assimilated into National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF). Various Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) are developing Qualification Packs (QPs), National Occupational Standards (NOSs) and assessment mechanisms in their respective domains, in alignment with the needs of the industry. Under this programme selected Colleges and Universities were funded for starting Certificate, Diploma and B.Voc. degree courses in different skill areas for which potential existed in the region. In the UT of J & K Govt. Degree College Boys Sopore and Central University of Kashmir were selected. Four skill courses were sanctioned by UGC for Degree College Boys Sopore in Retail Management, Information Technology, International Business Management and Tourism & Hospitality, for which Rs 100 lac were sanctioned by the UGC and received by college. The skill programme was completed, 200 students qualified with the programme in the examination conducted by the concerned skill councils namely Retail Sector Skill Council of India, NASCOM Sector Skill Council, Tourism & Hospitality Sector Skill Council & Apparel & Home Furnishing Sector Skill Council.  Now what is remaining these trainees have to start their own business ventures, they will be provided mentoring and guidance by Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) and J&K Khadi & Village Industries Board for the respective activities of proficiency.

J & K Govt has now decided to impart skill-based education in addition to normal education imparted at Higher Education Institutions in embedded / integrated mode with various degree courses or independent skill programme in the form of Certificate, Diploma, & B.Voc. programme. For which MOU and collaboration agreements were signed with SKUAST and other mentor institutions of the UT.

The effectiveness of Skill Programme depends upon the quality of skill imparted through practical knowledge learnt by handling of tools, machines, industrial training and internships etc. The Skill Programme for Colleges is designed in three modes: 1) Embedded 2) Integrated 3) Full Time B.Voc. Courses. The Embedded & Integrated mode can be for the students who are pursuing their Bachelors degree programme. The full time B.Voc. programme can be for fresher students, who opt professional, industry. Benchmarked training programme on industry requires international skill sets. In order to standardize skill courses for embedded or independent mode for students who are pursuing BA, B.Sc., B. Com, BBA or any other courses at College level there is need for roping in sector skill councils of respective skill trade for the programme so that quality and industry specific skills are imparted to students, which have scope of employment within and outside the state or they set up their own business ventures.  Doing so the skill that shall be imparted to student will be as per industry standards and make students employable in respective sector as the Certificate issued has industry acceptance and issued by respective sector skill council under NSDC Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

Taking example of a student who is pursuing his/her bachelors programme in Science can opt for embedded / integrated skill course in food technology, medical lab technologies, mushroom cultivation, medicinal and aromatic plants pr, Vermicompost production, similarly a student pursuing BA can pursue Skill Programme in Retail Management, Tourism & Hospitality, International Business, Beautician, the students pursuing BBA can enrol for Agri Business Management, Accountancy & Taxation etc. If he/she is in a position to get employment in his respective stream of study, he or she has acquired skills to start his own livelihood activity or impart his skill to others in the family to make use of it. Economic trajectory world over is largely propelled by skills of educated youth. We must strengthen our traditional areas of economy, and also identify areas in IT and other sunrise areas in which our youth is absent at present and give them basic skills in the activity which they will improve later on as such our effort has not to be in isolation.

Quality Standardization of Skill Courses by following NSQF Framework

The National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) is a competency-based framework that identifies trainees based on qualification, attitude, demand of skill in the industry or region and even global manpower requirement. The NSQF levels are graded from one to ten, and defined in terms of learning outcomes which the learner must possess regardless of whether they are obtained through formal, non-formal or informal learning. National Occupational Standards (NOS) are statements of the skills, knowledge and understanding needed for effective performance in a job role and are expressed as outcomes of competent performance. This standard facilitates what an individual performing any task should know and also is able to deliver. These standards can form the benchmarks for various education and training programs to match with the job requirements. Just as each job role may require the performance of a number of tasks, the combination of NOSs corresponding to these tasks form the Qualification Pack (QP) for that job role. The NOSs and QPs for each job role corresponding to each level of the NSQF are being formulated by the respective Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) set up by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) with industry leadership. The curriculum which is based on NOS’s and QPs would thus automatically comply with NSQF.

Type of Skill Courses:

NSQF Level 04 – Certificate Course (6 Months – 30 Credits after 10+2)

NSQF Level 05 – Diploma Course (1 Year – 60 Cumulative Credits after 10+2)

NSQF Level 06 – Advanced Diploma Course (2 Year – 120 Cumulative Credits)

NSQF Level 07 – B.Voc. (3 Years – 180 Cumulative Credits after 10+2)

These will be full-time credit-based programmes, wherein banking of credits for skill and general education components shall be permitted so as to enable multiple exit and entry. These cannot be conducted as add on programmes. The multiple entry and exit enable the learner to seek employment after any level of award and join back as and when it is feasible to upgrade his qualifications / skill competencies either to move higher in the job profile or in the higher educational system. This will also provide the learner an opportunity for vertical mobility to second year of B.Voc. degree programme after one-year diploma and to third year of B.Voc. degree programme after a two-year advanced diploma. The students may further move to Masters and Research degree programmes mapped at NSQF Level 8 –10.

The curriculum in each of the semester/years of the programme(s) has to be a suitable mix of general education and skill development components. The general education component shall include curriculum which is supportive to the core trade in addition to communication skills, soft skills, personality development, ICT skills, critical thinking, problem solving, environmental studies and value education. The Skill component of the courses shall have a minimum of 60% of the total credits and it can go up to a maximum of 70% of the total credits, and the balanced credits shall be of general education component. The skill component should include practical classes in laboratories / workshops, internships, apprenticeships and any other forms of hands-on training. Skill component of the programmes/courses shall be employment oriented. The institutions shall offer programmes/courses in domain areas which have significant demand in the job market. For the skill component, the model curriculum developed by the concerned Sector Skill Councils, wherever available, should be adapted in consultation with the industry partners. Wherever the curriculum is not available, the same may be developed in consultation with the relevant Sector Skill Councils and industry partners. While doing so, the institutions may work towards aligning the curriculum with the National Occupational Standards being developed by the respective/allied Sector Skill Councils. This would promote national and global mobility of the learners, as well as higher acceptability by the industry for employment purposes.

Roping in Sector Skill Councils for Skill Quality Improvement

There are about 30 sector skill councils registered under NSDC (National Skill Development Corporation) under Ministry of Skill & Entrepreneurship. The sector skill councils have specialization in particular trade like Agriculture Sector Skill Council has specialization in Agriculture, Horticulture and other allied fields, similarly NASCOM has specialization in Information Technology.

  • The Sector Skill Council will support the institutions in framing the regionally relevant skill curriculum based on the appropriate QPs / NOS’s in the sector.
  • The SSC will also conduct assessment for skill component of the courses on mutually agreed dates as per the previously shared performance and assessment criteria based on curriculum framed for the programme at different levels.
  • The SSC will declare Pass/Fail as per predefined assessment criteria and will also provide performance grades along with level certification either singly or jointly with the institution.

Areas of Skill Education that can be game changer in J&K

The economy of J&K is primarily Services and Agri based. The sectors like Handicraft, Tourism, Horticulture, Information Technology, Food Processing will create space for additional manpower only if we produce manpower which is skilled as per global standards, and is well versed with job roles, requirements and subject technicalities. The QP’s offered by various sector skill council which have scope of employment in J&K; Agri Business, Commercial Mushroom Cultivation, Commercial, Floriculture, Diary Farming, Aquaculture Farming, Beekeeping, Medicinal & Aromatic Plants. In the IT the potential areas can be Software Development, Animation, Data Processing, Biometric, CRM Voice / Non-Voice etc. Similarly, in Tourism & Hospitality Sector the focus areas can be Tour Guide, Adventure Sports Organiser, Ticketing, Front Office etc.  There are numerous courses offered by various sector skill councils which has tremendous scope of employment in J&K and outside the UT, while rolling out courses discussions need to be held with subject matter specialists and experts from industry especially from CII, FICCI which need to be roped in order to derive benefits of the skill education and make the programme a success. Any ambiguity that will remain in the program at this conception stage will take years to rectify.

While starting skill courses it has to be ensured that the skill manpower produced for different sectors should get employment in that sector of the economy, specifically speaking the sector should have capacity to absorb these people. As the sector is already managed by the people almost at the optimal level. So the additional space that have to be created in these sectors will be in the areas of more diversification, identification of new economic activities in these sectors, or planning for these sector keeping in view the requirements of those products and services within the country and other countries of the world, were products and services we produce has international market. The programme will only succeed provided detailed vision documents and the way to reach them are prepared by experts with the help of Govt. and the same is incorporated in the government programme on the year-to-year target basis.

Dr. Owais Charag is Astt. Professor, Business Administration, Govt. Degree College Sopore, Baramulla.