India’s evolving Technical and Vocational Education and Training ecosystem (TVET) faced many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the national lockdown, organisations had to remain shut for 7-8 months, until September 2020. This ecosystem is made up of a range of players, including vocational education providers such as schools and higher education institutions; short-term skill development programmes supported by corporate philanthropy and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC); public and private Industrial Training Institutes (ITI), among many others. All of these have faced an uphill task in reaching their customers, ensuring quality delivery of training, and connecting trained youth with jobs. And there have also been many lessons along the way, with different entities experimenting and adapting to the constraints posed by the pandemic.

Most skill development programmes in the country follow a classroom-led delivery model. Because of this, many faced huge infrastructure and human resource-related challenges while moving their operating models online overnight. On the one hand, participants from low-income families didn’t have access to digital infrastructure. On the other, trainers were not equipped enough to deliver virtual training, particularly while doing so from home.

Though internet accessibility has increased from 27 percent to 50 percent in the past five years in India, a majority of the youth who attend skill development programmes have very limited access to smartphones and data connectivity. At Dr. Reddy’s Foundation (DRF), our skilling programmes are primarily designed for unemployed youth from low-income families, with schooling until the 10th or 12th grade. We have found that prior to the national lockdown being announced last year, 25-30 percent of our students did not own smartphones. The pandemic has widened the digital divide between these students, and those who have access to resources. Reaching them through any kind of online programme was difficult.

Read the full article about skill development by Pranav Kumar Choudhary at India Development Review.