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India’s Approach to the Certification of Vocational Skills

By Rashmi Agrawal, Director,Institute of Applied Manpower Research, India.

The skills development and certification system in India has been described as ‘fragmented’ due to the involvement of plethora of organizations without much coordination. The system is also unable to cater to the needs of a large number of informally trained people so far as certifying their skills in the job market is concerned. Those informally trained also lack a sound educational background. The current system suffers from rigidity and poor vertical and horizontal mobility.

New concerns in the field of skills development and certification put a target of training and certifying 500 million people by 2022 to cash in on the country’s demographic dividend and make India’s labour force globally competitive. Obviously, the bulk of this 500 million will be trained informally, and recognizing and certifying their skills is therefore crucial. Towards this end it is proposed to implement a National Vocational and Educational Qualification Framework (NVEQF) that would rationalize the Indian vocational training and certification system. It is envisaged that NVEQF will be able to tackle the existing problems of the system. It is expected that it would bring transparency to the labour market, set common guidelines for qualifications, recognize prior learning, encourage lifelong learning and facilitate mobility from one strand to another.

The proposed approach for certification, which includes the integration of academic, vocational and technical education, aims at promoting the development of all groups including drop-outs, illiterates, the physically challenged and others. The NVEQF will also detail the management of the currently fragmented system so that various organizations could work as functional partners. Skills training will follow a modular, competency based approach with the involvement of industries on a continuous basis. It also proposes flexibility in delivery and training courses options. Ten levels of learning achievements in ascending order of learning complexity have been listed with level descriptors for each level as learning outcome indicators. For example, level one would be basic educational and vocational training where processes would be repetitive with general understanding of the trade, and where the person would have no specific responsibility of work. Level 1 and 2 would lead to National Certificate for Work Preparation while levels 3 to 10 will be National Competence Certificates. Specific pathways of learning have been indicated in the proposal. The implementation would be through coordinated efforts of various organizations.

While the objectives are laudable certain challenges ahead are to be considered. The proposal insists upon the total revamping of the educational and vocational training system in the country at all levels which, by the very size of it, is a herculean task. It requires serious intent from all partners.

Some of the issues that require immediate attention include identification of competencies at each level; training faculty and competent assessors; conversion of courses into modules; and, developing mechanisms for assessment of competencies – irrespective of mode competency acquired. The modality of strengthen (and certify) the theoretical knowledge of those who are informally trained also needs to be worked out.

Other questions are still unanswered. Formal certification will raise the aspirations of youth and they will demand better salaries and positions. Will the economy should generate sufficient demand for all the skills certified? A large number of people work on their own (in self employment) without any certificate. Will there be any restriction on them to get certification? Again there are individual differences in learning. Will the competencies of two individuals be identical, and even if they are, how would employers’ preferences for certain skill development institutions be dealt with? There is also a general preference and mind set to opt for more academic options.

Some options that come to mind are to bring income parity between academic and vocational employment, intensive and continuous faculty development, and the grading of competencies even at one level to recognize individual differences. Industry has to come forward if such a system is to see the light of the day.

Some States in the country have been assigned the work on a pilot basis. But they are shooting in the darkness as they are not aware of how to go about the job. One of the most important requirements in making the system operational is to impart intensive training to the implementers.

An interesting thought in the whole exercise is that housewives would also be tested and certified in house- keeping etc. to enable them to take up such positions in the job market. Are women listening?

>>See also Agrawal’s longer presentation on the same topic.

Rashmi Agrawal is the Director at theInstitute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), India. Email:


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2 Responses

  1. Søren Nielsen

    This is a very interesting piece and I would like to bring to your attention a new EU funded NQF project now under implementation in India. As two of my former ETF colleagues – Dr Muriel Dunbar (team leader) and Dr Jean-Marc Castejon (Lead NQF expert) – are involved in this task, I would certainly advice you to discuss the issues and challenges with them. They would be very interested in an ongoing discussion, I am convinced.

    Having myself a long period of reflection for the rest of 2012 after retirement from ETF and now living in Copenhagen, I don´t have their coordinates with me here – but check the project website.

    Søren Nielsen

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