Few days back, I came across a unique case of a South Kashmir youth. After completing a bachelor's degree in education (B Ed) and a postgraduate degree, he landed in a 4-month skill development course in 'advanced automobile repairing'. He doesn't have an inhibitions of getting his hands dirty in learning the skill of automobile repairing and is optimistic that what a post graduate degree and a professional teacher's degree couldn't do for him, this 4-month skill training will.
Even as skill development programmes here are not so common, but over a period of time I could feel the pulse of many graduates and postgraduates realizing that a college degree isn't always the best way forward. With jobs proving elusive, they have started realizing that it is being skilled which can pave their way into a job and become financially independent.
It's quite long time now that our youth have been finding it increasingly difficult to get jobs. While unemployment is a visible scar in our state, a huge chain of skilled and unskilled work force from outside the state finds work here.
It's a stunning fact that the skill profile of our youth is not what the market requires. So there is a gap between what the market needs and what we supply. In traditional sense, it's the problem of unemployment. But in modern outlook, it's basically more a grave problem of employability.
So it's a situation where equipping the workforce with the skills required for the jobs of today and those of tomorrow is a huge concern. Precisely, ours is a skill deficit economy and we lack robust strategies to bail out ourselves out of this mess. Too much of emphasis on conventional education system has overlapped the significance of skill development of our youth. New occupations are emerging and replacing others at a amazing speed. Within each occupation, required skills and competencies are evolving, widening the horizon of skill deficit.
Then there is another aspect tagged to lack of skills. It's thought to be one of the key determinants of main social problems like poverty and crime, which curbs overall economic growth.
In a skill deficit economy like ours, even an MBA type of qualification is a problem. For example, an MBA pass out opts for setting up a handicraft venture. He is fit to handle the unit but not the craft enterprise. So he lacks skill to run such type of enterprise successfully. Here an MBA with craft management would have made him fit to run the venture in handicrafts successfully.
What we need is to tailor economic activity programmes based on skill development of our youth to match the market needs. Once our youth are skilled, we can reap the benefit of the resources available in the state. and will ultimately solve the problem of employability. Here it's the vocational training which will be a crucial constituent to link competences of our youth with market needs. Vocational education and training should be treated as an important element of the education initiative. However, vocational training should match the needs of fast changing and evolving markets and economies to help youth to step into more productive and sustainable jobs. A Public Private Partnership model can be created to train youth in latest skills and secure a job.
Here, we should not ignore the role of our educational institutions, particularly highest seats of learning. At the moment our current education system seems quite ill equipped to correct this imbalance. Most of our academic courses often emphasize theoretical concepts at the expense of practical skills. It is overdue to introduce economic specific courses or realign certain courses according to the market needs. And above all, establishment of a skill development institute is inevitable, if mission to building an ecosystem around matching, repairing and preparing is to be achieved.
(The view are of the author & not the institution he works for)