Getting people together to learn vocational skills for any sector mostly involves classroom training and practical application of the learned skill. But how do you teach new skills in a post Covid world, which needs social distancing, safety precautions and constant monitoring?
E-learning is possible when people have smart phones, great connectivity and curriculum that adapts to digital. Vocational skills such as plumbing, wiring, carpentry, masonry largely are done by people who don’t have this kind of technology access nor the money to afford it.
However, with unemployment at an all-time high and industry wanting workers with different or enhanced capabilities, this is the time to scale skilling infrastructure in the country and rapidly match it to industry needs. KPMG’s Covid19 skills sector impact report speaks of reprioritising the skills sector and technology interventions for continuous learning. Says Debabrata Ghosh, Director of KPMG India’s Education and Skill Practice, “We need to re-examine skilling from the lens of effective learning, evaluation and monitoring. Simply translating classroom curriculum assumes that learners are ready to learn online, the learning will be effective and that teachers know what needs to be done. We need significantly more efforts than that!”
In times of great shifts, perspectives change, so do processes and systems. This is in part, because of necessity and partly because of a re-prioritization of what matters more. To navigate this new world of shifting priorities and systems, new skills are needed. Not only that, the ways of imparting knowledge need to scale and adapt to new realities. Pushed by the new realities, businesses are going digital at an unprecedented rate. They are also prioritizing safety, remote monitoring and digital knowledge. The nature of jobs is therefore changing.
For instance, the construction sectors won’t just need electricians, masons and plumbers, they will need operators who can fly a drone to monitor the project site. Project managers will need staff who can take the temperature of the workers and add it into the health and safety mobile app. Basic knowledge of data entry, scanning, digital photography, remote maintenance will be needed.
The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards online learning in the education system. Schools and colleges have almost instantly moved to e-learning, while the vocational skill environment needs to catch up.
The digital transformation of vocational skilling is now need of the hour. This digital transformation can give us the opportunity to scale current efforts into something that can be useful and just the thing that millions of unemployed Indians need, to skill fast, get certified and reach employers who need their skills. But we need to do this in a methodical, innovative way while understanding three clear things.
Firstly, for digital skilling, we first need to think digital inclusion.
Digital inclusion at one level means helping people with the digital hardware such as access to phones, electricity, data access and delivery. Stipends given to trainees under government schemes and private institutions, need to include device and data access for the duration of the vocational training. In addition, programs need to be mindful of accessibility best practices for special needs trainees.
Secondly, training needs to be done in the language of the learner
Classroom learning enables the instructor to modify courses in local languages or dialects. Digital can enable this at scale, but efforts are needed to get away from the ‘english only’ mindset of learning content developers. Digital content in the language of the customer or the trainee is actually the need of the hour.
Thirdly, effective use of digital tools
Digital learning is not about setting up zoom classes or power point presentations. Its far more than that. Using simplistic, software driven approaches can lead to digitization of content but may fail to actually teach anything. We need research that examines the multifaceted digital tools that can be used to enhance learning. When should videos be used? When should simulators be used? When should assessments be done? We need to move from omnibus terms like Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual reality (VR) towards simulation labs and learning platform that help people learn well.
In this fast-changing world, we need the skills sector to pivot fast for the jobs that are just around the corner and the methodologies to best deliver what is needed. Accelerated learning, quick turnarounds and deep insight from the various business sectors can have a transformational impact.
About the author
Namrata Rana is the Director Brand & Strategy, Futurescape, whose work focuses on building ESG strategy and transformation through customer journey mapping and leadership workshops. She writes extensively in various publications and has co-authored BALANCE – Responsible business for the digital age.