Consider this: By 2022, the average age of India will be 29, and the country will add about 25% to the global workforce. With close to 93% of India’s workforce in the unorganised sector, the spotlight is on skills. Dame Asha Khemka, chair of Association Of Colleges India (AOC), who was in India recently as part of a delegation from the UK, believes that the two countries must work together on skill development initiatives and focus on vocational training, among others. AOC is an organisation of over 360 colleges and aims to improve standards of higher education in the UK, with the Indian wing headquartered in the Capital.
“India’s youth is hungry for success, yet they lack basic skills such as access to quality education. So employability is a challenge. Besides, the curriculum in most institutes of higher education in India is outdated. Which is why we need more employer involvement and we must urge students and the youth to explore alternative career routes (besides engineering and medicine),” adds Dame Khemka, who was awarded the ‘Woman Of The Year’ by British PM David Cameron this year.
As part of the West Nottinghamshire College Group, UK (of which Khemka is principal and chief executive), she plans to open a vocational training institute in India early next year. Dame Khemka adds that she is also experimenting with the concept of studio schools, a new concept in the UK, wherein students from the age of 14 are put through vocational training so that they can learn key skills that will improve their employability quotient. She plans to open India’s first such studio school in Bihar, her home state.
Dame Khemka believes that the UK-India partnership will go a long way towards skilling the youth of both countries . “About 25 ITIs (industrial training institutes) have been identified and these will be converted to community colleges so as to ensure better education standards. Also, UK will be sending around 25,000 students to India (over five years) and scholarships will be announced for students from both UK and India,” she adds.
We need more employer involvement in the education space and we must urge the youth to explore alternative career routes and support their dreams ---- Dame Asha Khemka, chair of aoc india