Bilal Ahmad Dar
Kashmir is currently facing youth bulge where 60% of the State’s total population is between the age group of 18-30 years; this youth bulge is expected to last for the next 20 years. Only a small percent of Kashmiri youth have access to quality education which involves higher education at the university level. This scenario calls for more skill oriented programs for youngsters in order to create job opportunities for them, especially for people from the lower income strata of the society.
In today’s world, unemployment is high among the young masses because of low education, job unavailability and lack of financial resource. Currently, the unemployment rate in Kashmir is around fourteen percent. Unemployment and under-employment are two of the grim problems being faced by Kashmiris, and are major hindrances in the path of economic development. One of the core reasons of unemployment is the scarcity of skilled human resource(s). It is becoming fast evident that employment opportunities are becoming limited for the graduates of general subjects in the current scenario, the education given at degree level is not designed keeping in mind the market demand nor is it skill oriented.
The Government needs to shift focus towards initiating skill development programs for the young cohort of the population. Skill development programs include both technical and vocational training. It is a well-known fact that well implemented skill development programs can play an important role in the socio-economic development of any nation and help in strengthening the economic status of the weak segments of a society by giving them decent earning opportunities.
This brings into spotlight the discussion about Technical and Vocational Education and Training sector in Kashmir and has become an important policy issue. Lack of funds for the proper maintenance of technical facilities, focusing more on theory than practical optimization of skills are among the few reasons in the long list of substandard production facilities. Institutes are attracting youngsters by offering monthly scholarships and fee exemptions but fail to equip them with skills necessary for employment in local and international job markets. Graduates of these institutes surely have a diploma in hand but not a job. Technical and vocational training can effectively contribute towards generating income opportunities for the youngsters, particularly of those belonging from lower income strata of the society.
No one can deny the role of skill development programs in harnessing the innate potential of youngsters. For effective Technical and Vocational Education and Training provision, the focus should be on the quality and uniformity of curriculum and propagation of practical skills. Before launching any skill development program, awareness about its pros and cons should be advertised through proper channels, so that maximum number of individuals can take advantage from any given programs. Government should target youngsters from lower socio-economic backgrounds with scarce opportunities and financial resources for higher education in order to make them a member of skilled human resource of State. In the time period of the diminishing labor force and rising elderly population in State with such a precious resource of young population has the chance to reposition itself as a major source of providing trained and skilled manpower. This production of skilled and energetic human resource needs the urgent attention of our policy makers.
—The author is a PhD scholar at the Jaipur National University, Jaipur, at the School of Business and Management. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org