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Revamping ITIs through Station-e model

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Dr Haresh TankTo address and cater to the needs of ITIs and enhance the students’ competencies for employment opportunities, Station-e model can be the right choice, asserts Station-e Language Lab Director Dr Haresh Tank

“In order to produce technicians of world standard, Government proposes to launch a programme in the Central sector to upgrade 500 ITIs over the next 5 years at the rate of 100 ITIs a year. Appropriate infrastructure and equipment will be provided, the syllabi will be upgraded and new trades will be introduced. This is an area where I welcome Chambers of Commerce and Industry to join hands with the Government and create a public-private partnership model for designing and implementing the scheme,” says P Chidambaram, Union Minister for Finance, Govt of India

The vocational education sector is the most neglected area and is the weakest link in education and the economy. The Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) across the country are monuments of this neglect. With this mandate ‘to produce technicians of world standard’, India finds itself completely inadequate to meet the match and hence the call for the upgradation of ITIs into Centres of Excellence. After eight years of that speech, things have not improved a great deal.

The quality of the ITIs in the country has always been a cause of concern and more so in the last few years, because of the fact that the industry is clamouring against the blatant disconnect between the skills imparted in these institutions and the skills demanded in the market. There are several challenges that ITIs face, but they cannot be understood or addressed unless one understands the ground reality.

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Training the youth
The ground reality has its direct relationship with the international competitiveness that companies aim at in the present era of globalisation, and rightly so, they require a skilled and competent workforce that is attuned to the market requirements and is equipped with knowledge of right skills and advanced technologies. Unfortunately, the ITIs in the country do not have any of the expertise or resources to train the youth for that.

In countries like Finland and South Korea, vocational education is at par with mainstream education and half of the student pool opts for vocational education because there are excellent facilities, up-to-date syllabi and advanced tech tools to support their training.

Students passing out of such a system would naturally obtain good jobs as ‘technicians of world standard’. Compared to this, India has never taken its vocational education seriously and hence, students never considered it to be a path to employment. However, the fact remains that the world of business badly needs skilled technicians and the irony of the situation is that the sanctioned seats in ITIs across India remain unutilized as the youth do not opt for education imparted in ITIs. For those who opt for it, the employment opportunities are not easy to come by.

Challenges for ITIs
The biggest pointer to the abysmal state of vocational education is the under utilisation of seats as reported by more than 51 percent of the ITIs. It is hard to argue with the fact that the trades presently being offered by the ITIs in the country fail the test in terms of the industry and market needs at the national and local levels and that many of the old fashioned trades limit the scope for job opportunities after completion of the course.

How much a country spends on a sector/segment is a rough indicator of how much significance is attached to it.

Of course, the problems lie usually in the implementation, but in the case of ITIs, nearly 77 percent of the budget is, on an average, allocated for salaries, leaving very little for other expenses. Imagine the situation of an ITI with very little to spend on equipment, infrastructure and instructor training, when it has very good budget to do it.

What this means is that our ITIs are operating on old machines, average infrastructure put in place years ago, and instructors who do not receive any great training opportunities to upgrade themselves. Another facet to this is that while nearly 95 percent of the budget is that of all the funds allocated for the purchase of raw material used in the machines and equipment, the average proportion allocated under this head was a meagre six percent of the budget.

These ITIs spend very little on staff training and development, which is a significant area for any educational institution. Only 30 percent of the ITIs had allocated budget for staff training and development in the year 2003-04. But since then, the scenario has only marginally improved in the case of only some of them. The rest still lag behind in the same way they used to a decade ago. The more fundamental evil is the availability of staff – shortage of staff has been a serious cause for concern for the ITIs in India with a whopping 80 percent+ of the ITIs functioning with staff strength less than what is sanctioned for them by the NCVT, DGE&T.

There is, of course, the almost non-existent monitoring system prevailing in the vocational training system in the country, which tells us the grim story regarding the number of inspections during the last several years in these institutes. There are ITIs where no inspections at all has been undertaken in many years, with so many of them where very few inspections took place over the years. When one places this with the fact that these are the institutes poised for becoming centres of excellence in the future, points towards an even more frightening picture of the overall scenario in this regard.

What all of it spell for the students is that their skills training is affected in a significant way and the trades they learn may not be of great use to the world anymore but they discover this only after passing out. Students passing out of ITIs do not belong to the skills-oriented world of business and industry where cutting technology defines new age innovations everyday. In order to upgrade and enhance the quality of ITI students, we propose a model envisaged and implemented in Gujarat by Station-e.

Station-e Model for ITIs
To address and cater to the needs of ITIs, Station-e has evolved a unique model for the enhancement of the student competency and employment opportunities. Station-e model is a high tech language lab facility that caters to the students’ need for skills training for the employment today. It works in several ways to serve the cause of students of ITIs. It is a unique mix of components which make skills training an art and science both.

Firstly, Station-e has developed training modules which emphasise on the soft skills that can prove crucial in getting a job in today’s scenario. These modules are based on the years of research at the global level and national level to upskill the youth. These modules are what average education is not- it is customised to meet student needs, activity based to the core and defined by contemporary pedagogy. To add to this, there is advanced technology playing a pivotal role in the transaction of these modules for upskilling the youth.

Every aspect of the modules and every activity to be carried out by students is interwoven into a technology-led process so that students are trained into a culture of the 21st century workplace where technology is the ultimate unifying factor of all business and industry processes. Mix this with very high standard of trainers which are missing in the ITIs and we shall have the perfect combination of skills up gradation for the youth. This model operates through the establishment of Skills Development Centre to be established and interwoven in the processes of an ITI. With a scientific pre and post-test, results are as concrete as one can get from a scientific experiment. To complete the cycle, Station-e Skills Development Centre serves to link ITIs with local and national industry so that the youth are absorbed as soon as they pass out.

When implemented, there were pleasant surprises for both ITIs as well as us, because the results have been astonishing to say the least. It is profoundly significant to note that all these Station-e Skills Development Centres (SDCs) are established across the rural parts of Gujarat and not the urban areas which is a measure of its success and efficacy. Take for instance, an ITI like Rajula in the remote part of a district like Amreli has grown manifold in terms of skills training and employment opportunities. Students have reported unrivalled growth and their stories of employment and good salaries float across the small town of Rajula today.

The experience of the instructors of technical subjects after the establishment of Skills Development Centre at Keshod ITI, Junagadh district, is a case in point. These instructors saw a marked difference in the competency level of students after their training  in the SDC. There are several ITIs today which have Station-e SDCs and which have narratives of transformation to tell us with a focus on skills upgradation and employment opportunity. The industry has taken note of this transformation and is entering into agreement today with these ITIs to employ these youths.

As a model of skills enhancement and employment generation, Station-e Skills Development Centre has proved its mettle and the record is improving with the passage of time. The time is ripe to consider its national implementation with some solid policy initiatives.

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