Vocational skills development should be a key thrust area for Budget 2022

With every budget there are expectations. The education sector, which has been a relatively neglected sector from a budget’s point of view, is one of the most important sectors for people, economy, and the society in general. This makes it even more important for India to focus on education that is tuned to develop skill and competency to increase employability rates. This will also help alleviate poverty.

I would like to hope the 2022 budget has special provisions for vocational education, skill development and re-skilling or upskilling. These areas require more attention and have been long ignored, therefore, there has not been a major impact to the economy. This has especially affected sectors where continuous upskilling is required for better productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

The question is how we encourage society to take up vocational skills development in the sectors which are waiting for such skilled workforce to improve their product offering, for instance in the construction and infrastructure sector. In the construction and infrastructure sector, the majority of the workforce comprises transitionary workers requiring extensive training and development to meet the expectations of the industry. This increases the need for significant involvement, direction and supervision resulting in excessive levels of support by the project team and management.

However, if vocational education can be encouraged amongst the younger generation, this will not only lead to an improvement in their standard of living but also the skills required to improve the sector efficiency, reduce wastage, increase product quality and productivity, improve wages, self-esteem, and continuity of the worker in the industry. Additionally, through skill development, capacity building can also be done as this sector requires a trained workforce. Therefore, a boost to the construction and infrastructure sector would go a long way. It can also fund or incentivise upgrading of institutions offering good quality education and training.

Education should be demand-led and not supply based. So how do we encourage demand-led education? This must be done through building competencies and skills for the participants. This would lead to employment in which they can contribute positively and lead to satisfied employers. It is this life cycle which the budget should support.

Due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the education sector generally has been suffering and yet delivering the required outcomes above and beyond and at a high standard, to ensure students do not lose time in their education journey, but also obtain the required skills and knowledge to pursue their potential careers. Due to the pandemic, online education and hybrid teaching became the new methods of teaching and learning, which also provided flexibility to students. These methods are here to stay as technological advancements continue to develop in this space, especially in the education sector.

While ideally the Budget should focus on all levels of education, however this time the emphasis should be on skills development aspects to boost the economy more quickly. The education sector is an important performer of the economy which needs a boost to show its full potential in creating a generation of skilled, competent, and ready workforce to contribute to all sectors of the economy.

(The writer is Associate Dean and Director, School of Construction, RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University)

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