by Prachur Goel
Vocational education has been a poor orphan in our educational system. Only the ones who can’t turn to it. Post-TFI, while working with Funfirst, I have learnt quite a lot about the current vocational system. In this post, I want to focus on a small event that gave me hope and the belief that this work is worth it.
Recently, Government of India created Modular EmployableSkills (MES) framework with the aim to provide, improve and certify employable skills to school leavers, existing workers, ITI graduates etc. MES courses are demand driven, short term training courses identified in consultation with the industry.
One of the first steps was registering Funfirst, as a vocational training partner (VTP) and our plant site at Kolhapur as a Vocational Training Center for MES courses in the streams of Electrical, Electronics, Material Management and Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. The process was long, like all government processes normally are, but we were delighted when our registration finally came through. We decided to start with Electronics 101 and Material Management 101 and chose 20 people to be trained. We could start training!
Well, not really. We faced a challenge in the form of the Government SDI web portal. Long hours were spent registering our people and then enrolling them according to the planned training calendar. The battle against the portal’s vagaries took many days but we plodded on relentlessly. Finally, one sunny day, our course enrollment was complete. Now, we could start training.
This was our first time training so all of us were nervous and excited (understandably). Our trainers spent hours planning their course and many more studying in preparing for their lectures. After all, this was also their first time in training. Our trainees, who are existing plant workers, showed a lot of enthusiasm and grit, doing their best to balance their education and work at the plant. They regularly took small assessments and exceeded expectations.
All too soon, the course was completed and it was time for the final assessment by a third party assessor. While we were confident about our training we nervously asked our trainees about their performance on the assessment. The wait for the result seemed to last for eternity. One afternoon while checking the portal, as had been the hourly ritual, we noticed that the results had been uploaded and each one of our trainees had passed. We were overjoyed with our first batch.
We weren’t satisfied with just the results. Vocational education has always been short changed in our country and we wanted to find out if our trainees had really derived some benefit from the course. I personally spoke to more than half the students and their feedback was more than a little surprising.
Almost everyone felt that they understood most of their courses. Even in cases when the courses were not immediately related to their field of work, all of them were happy that they gained some more knowledge and understanding of processes. Some of them have worked for many years but for the first time, they had more than a superficial understanding. It enabled them to ask more questions, submit better reports and take initiative in doing simple tasks which earlier, they relegated to their colleagues and superiors. Couple of them said that they always had an interest in electronics but could never get trained in it. Now they have repaired small appliances in their own homes. All of them are eager to do more such courses in the future.
For far too long, the ‘blue-collared’ workers have been marginalized and their careers have stagnated due to lack of advancement opportunities. They are treated as inefficient machines who should not have a career path. Professional development and work satisfaction is not even in the vocabulary. I see these steps leading to more productivity, efficiency, confidence and satisfaction at work. And this is just the start. There are many such stories waiting to be created.