Unemployment of youths with higher educational qualifications is among the bigger challenges, India is facing. There may be many contributory factors responsible for this kind of situation but the big question is..are the youths possessing higher educational qualifications equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to enable them to get jobs suited to their qualifications? It would be pertinent to mention here that our education system puts more emphasis on theoretical than practical knowledge. Consequently, the system produces a large number of students who do not have the skills to cope with the modern-day requirements of manufacturing, non-manufacturing units and industries. They are almost lacking in critical thinking, problem-solving abilities and in new skill acquisition capabilities. Their collaborative and communication skills are poor. The use of technology as a tool for learning and communication is minimal. They are still a part of the conventional system in which students progress by completing coursework over an established period of time which may be a term or semester. This is more or less the same as what Dr Annie Besant described as ” Filling students head with a lot of disjointed facts poured into the heads as into a basket, to be emptied out again in the examination hall and empty basket carried out again into the world”. According to Wheebox National Employability Test survey analysis for 2021 ” There is still a lot of work required to equip the talent pool of India’s youth with skills of 21st century. A holistic approach to the employability landscape states that a mix of technological familiarity and in-depth subject knowledge are two factors that influence the employability of an individual”.
It is common knowledge that youths in India after completing their higher education opt for undergoing some kind of specific training or apprenticeship/ internship in Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) like HMT, BHEL, SAIL, BEL, ONGC, CPRI etc or research agencies like HAL, DRDO, ISRO etc. The majority of PSUs are Government of India owned and are closely linked to core sectors of the national economy namely infrastructure, finance, power, metal, mining, coal, oil and capital goods. Some non-governmental private industries, companies, commercial and non-commercial enterprises also help the students in apprenticeship. In general, the apprenticeship equips them with skills, expose them to the latest technologies and instil in them a competitive spirit of collaboration and communication. If it is necessary for a large number of students to undergo apprenticeship/ internship after completing their graduate programme to obtain employment, then the moot question is…..why our education system should not make the apprenticeship/ internship a formal part of the graduate programme?
Different governments have been making efforts to improve the education system to make the growing working force of young graduates employable. But these efforts have almost remained devoid of incorporating the concept of ” skill development “ or ” learn by doing “ in the course work of the bachelor degree programme !!!
India has the third-largest higher education system after the US and China, with more than 1000 universities and 52000 colleges as of 2020. Post-independence University Grant Commission (UGC), a statutory organization has been involved in reforming and revamping the higher education system in India. The Central Government in its budget announcement of 2020–2021 put emphasis on the need to make fresh graduates employment ready. In line with New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 approved by GOI last year, UGC urged the universities and other higher education institutes ( HEIs) to offer Apprenticeship/Internship embedded degree programmes, the guidelines for which were sent in 2020. The institutions which are already offering these programmes have been asked to submit the relevant information by October 10, 2021. The main objective of this action appears to make universities and HEIs include apprenticeship/ internship in general degree programmes. As per the guidelines, at least 20 % of the total credits of the Apprenticeship/ Internship embedded degree programme should be assigned to the apprenticeship/internship. For the development of such programme, UGC has also involved Sector Skill Councils (SSCs), Board of Apprenticeship Training ( BOAT ), All India Council of Technical Education ( AICTE ) and industries bodies such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry ( FICCI ) and Confederation of Indian Industry ( CII ) for consultations.
UGC’s initiative to make the large number of students who are enrolled every year in general degree programmes like BA, B.Sc, B.Com. etc employable through Apprenticeship/ Internship embedded degree programmes is certainly progressive and deserves to be commended. These programmes will provide the opportunity to the students pursuing general degree programmes to get hands-on training and work-based learning in identified discipline/ trade at the premises of workplace like commercial or non-commercial organizations or enterprises or offices or industries or industries associations for at least one semester. Through the mix of practical at the workplace and theory-based learning in class in academic institutions, the students will acquire skills required by the employers in commercial and non-commercial organizations and industries. This will help the students getting jobs. It is worth mentioning that amendments made to Apprenticeship Act and Apprenticeship Rules from 2014 to 2019 made it possible for UGC to come out with Apprenticeship/ Internship embedded degree programmes.
Although SSCs and BOAT will provide guidance to HEIs in identifying the industries for apprenticeship/ internship, the responsibility of having a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) with discipline-specific commercial and non-commercial organizations or enterprises, offices, industries etc for providing apprenticeship/internship lies with HEIs and that too before introducing the apprenticeship/internship embedded degree programme. Although universities keep making efforts to have interactions with industries due to one of the requirements of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council which accredits the universities once, in five years, the outcome of such interactions is not very encouraging. The universities may face difficulties in having MoU with the discipline-specific non-academic organizations, enterprises and offices. Therefore the relevant ministries of both Central and State Governments may urge the industries, commercial and non-commercial organizations and offices to cooperate with HEIs in working out an MoU with them. This will facilitate the conductance of apprenticeship/internship of students at the workplace of units described above.
We can learn a lot from Dual Study Programmes especially the Dual Model of Vocational Education and Training ( VET ) in Germany that combine practical work placements at companies/ industries with academic training at higher education institutions/ vocational schools which have cooperation contracts with companies/ industries. They are practical oriented, popular and significantly contribute to Germany’s economy. The strong and consistent coordination among GOI, UGC, apprenticeship/ internship delivering Agencies, SSCs, BOAT, AICTE and industries bodies like FICCI and CII is needed to achieve the objective of improving the employability of students pursuing undergraduate level general degree programmes. Both the students and apprenticeship/internship delivering agencies/ units are expected to benefit from this programme.
Dr. Aqueel Khan,
Former Professor and Head,
University Postgraduate Teaching Department of Biochemistry RTM Nagpur University,