Ministry clears community colleges to make up shortfall in skilled workforce

TO CHURN out an "employable and skilled" workforce just about a fourth of engineering graduates are employable, according to studies by FICCI and NASSCOM a committee set up by the HRD Ministry has proposed to tweak the "rigid" structure of higher learning that is "disconnected" with requirements of the workplace.

The panel headed by Madhya Pradesh Education Minister Archana Chitnis has proposed a window in the post-school education so a student, should she so wish, can complete a degree course in less than three years; opt for a modular credit-based course exit midway after banking credits and rejoin later or take short-term skill enhancing courses irrespective of qualification, not unlike at community colleges in the US. The ministry has accepted the proposal.

Of India's 51 crore workforce, more than 4.6 crore are unemployed, and this number could rise, the committee has warned, unless workplace requirements are factored in the syllabi and a flexible and open skill-based education system is created to cater to a huge potential workforce outside mainstream education.

Modelled on the community colleges of the US, the system proposed by the Chitnis committee is expected to take off with 100 colleges which will offer a mix of "knowledge and skill" through degree, honours, certificate, diploma and associate degree courses broken into credit-based modules in the 12th Five-Year Plan. India is estimated to require more than 31,000 skill-based colleges and the committee has suggested that some polytechnic and vocational institutes be upgraded to community colleges to fill this huge gap.

The new system will also offer courses to the unskilled and semi-skilled workforce in agriculture, forestry and traditional industries to enhance their skill. The committee, in fact, has recommended certain weightage in admission for local communities.

The colleges, the committee has said, would help mainstream skill-based courses, the curriculum for which will be developed by the College Board of Studies comprising universities and industry experts. Envisaged as autonomous institutes, the colleges will have to get accreditation for infrastructure, pedagogy and faculty and employ a lean core-faculty supported by a guest faculty of considerable size.

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