The concept of quality management implies creating a set of policies and actions that facilitate the mobilization of the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) toward a quality culture that goes beyond mere certification. It implies a commitment to a new way of doing things in order to achieve objectives from the beginning. This commitment involves the whole organization. The quality problem stems out of the twin dimensions: (a) those trained but do not possess competencies for employability (either core or soft skills) and (b) mismatch between what is demanded and the skills supplied (Mehrotra 2014a).
It is interesting to note that several attempts are being made to accomplish quality standards through the establishment of National Vocational Quality Framework (NVQF) and Quality Council of India (QCI) among others. Furthermore, the industry has partnered with the government through National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Sector Skill Councils (SSCs). With the help of industry, 33 SSCs have developed 1,661 Qualification Packs (QPs) covering 4,420 unique National Occupation Standards (NOSs). The industry is thus being roped in to help in creating curriculum, training the trainers, and, most importantly, supporting apprenticeship in the country. However, there has been some reluctance from the industry in providing a wage differential for skilled workers, leading to low absorption of skilled manpower. The industry needs to be educated on the benefits of employing a skilled workforce and the difference that skilled workers bring in terms of productivity and efficiency versus an unskilled worker (Interview with Sri S. Ramadorai, former president of NSDC, Government of India in Tara & Sanath Kumar, Skill Development in India, IIMB Management Review, 2016).
In order to address the growing international demands, national education and training systems are required to (a) adopt a broader mandate, (b) have a global vision, and (c) act locally. This will entail stronger alliances and increased cooperation with various stakeholders, including governmental institutions, vocational education and training (VET) providers and their staff, employers’ associations, and trade unions. However, many countries have separate education systems and training systems that for generations have operated in relative isolation from one another. There are wide variations between the two sectors in terms of (a) their different cultures, governance, finance, and accountability, and (b) their standards, expectations, and ways of measuring learners’ progress. There is a growing movement globally to adopt quality-focused VET strategies that rely on strong partnerships with stakeholders in order to make data-informed decisions about identified needs and expectations (Galvão 2014).
When vocational education provided in Germany is taken into consideration, the very system VET is given highest importance and is highly evolved. According to Sondermann (Ministerial Director, Head of Vocational Training Directorate),
the vocational education and training system in Germany imparts high quality occupational competencies and vocational qualifications. High transition rates into labor market and low youth unemployment by international comparison underscore the significance of the vocational education of the German employment system.
According to Dr. Scheffler (Ministerial Director, Chair of Vocational Education Subcommittee), “the development of a European and, subsequently, a German qualification framework is an essential foundation if cooperation in the field of vocational education up to the year 2020 is to be based on reliable instruments.” Since India has developed a National Vocational Qualification Framework (NVQF), it would be most ideal for Indian and German partners to work together to establish quality standards of vocational education being offered, especially in ITIs as the students transition into the world of work. This implementation of total quality management (TQM) in voice of customer (VOC), especially in an internationally competitive training environment, can provide a comparative advantage in preparing the quality workforce required for micro- and macro-economic reforms. Quality-driven vocational training institutions will foster innovation and improvement and, thus, can have a strategic advantage in providing high-quality training.
Ensuring Quality in Delivery
There is a need for an independent system to assess quality, comprising all elements of the skill development value chain, right from need assessment and student mobilization up to training and placement. Current systems are primarily oriented toward quality checks (through trade tests) during the phase of assessment and certification.
We observe the need for the following:
• Quality frameworks, processes, and standards comprising of all elements of the skill development value chain
• A periodic quality assessment of training providers, be they public or private
• A plan to consistently improve performance (based on the results of periodic evaluation)
• A means to link funding to outcomes, once sufficient effort has been expended into taking steps to enhance quality and after adequate course-correction (i.e., after giving sufficient opportunity and support to training providers)
• A framework for incentivizing good performance.
The following is an illustrative framework for performance measurement and outcome-based funding.
What are the prime drivers of quality, especially in a program that aims to impart formal skill training of high professional standards? Quality will have to be driven (as well as be determined) by the following dimensions at the level of each/individual institute/center: (a) strong governance and administration, (b) adequate and appropriate faculty, (c) current curriculum, (d) relevant infrastructure, and (e) a defined process for evaluation of student learning from in-gate to out-gate, employment, and employability that rewards partnerships.
Considering the magnitude of the challenge of skilling about 15 million persons every year and ensuring that the workforce of 500 million is adequately skilled by 2022, the way forward must comprise adequate initiatives to achieve these humungous targets in the right “scale” and “speed.”
• Vocational education in schools should be enhanced. This will present a channel for students to acquire skills, both life skills and industry-specific skills, during schooling. The vocational education system should be enhanced from the current 320,000 available under the National Institute of Open Schooling.
• Creating a large talent pool through modular employable scheme (MES). The MES framework provides a means for multiple-entry and multiple-exit skill development. It brings with it a flexibility to offer short-term, demand-led courses with partnerships. Increased adoption and will help achieve the required scale in skill development.
• Targeting skill development at all levels of the “skill pyramid.” It is required to not only skill and educate the workforce to develop higher-level skills (which is key to ensuring industry competitiveness through research and intellectual property (IP), etc.) but also to adequately skill the workforce at the lower levels (i.e., where much of the workforce is concentrated).
• Creating a large talent pool through MES: The MES framework provides a means for multiple-entry and multiple-exit skill development. It brings with it a flexibility to offer short-term, demand-led courses with partnerships. Increased adoption and a stronger will would help achieve the required scale in skill development.
• Formulation of institutional mechanisms for content formation, delivery, and assessment: As demand for training grows, there will also be a cascading impact on the demand for content, standardized processes for training delivery, and uniform assessment practices. These will drive the demand for trainers and assessors, which will be a critical bottleneck as other pieces of the ecosystem fall in place. Furthermore, there would be a need for standards and quality processes (quality systems formulation, quality assessment, quality certification/training process certification) as the demand for training grows rapidly. These would require introducing institutional mechanisms specifying quality standards and practices.
• Expediting the formulation of SSCs. Given the need to ensure standards, industry involvement, and industry-led initiatives, what is required is to expedite the formulation of SSCs. The National Skill Development Policy has proposed the following roles for SSCs: identification of skill development needs; development of a sector skill development plan and maintaining skill inventory; determining skills/competency standards and qualifications; participation in affiliation, accreditation, examination, and certification processes; planning and executing the training of trainers; and promotion of academies of excellence.
• Setting up a national human resource market information system (a national skill exchange). The requirement for an information and communication technology (ICT)–enabled market information system will help both employers and employees provide details on specific demand as well as where does access to skilled workforce exists. This should not be limited just to the vocationally skilled workforce but also be made available to those seeking higher-level skills.