Nowadays, we keep hearing criticisms from industries and businesses, about the youth. The charge sheet against them is a very exhaustive one, starting from their attitude, work ethics and zeroing in on remuneration expectations.
Yet, when training the youth, we need to keep in mind that we are dealing with a generation that will eventually lead the nation. They are the new source of energy emerging in Sri Lanka, and we are being given a unique opportunity to invest in their vocational education.
No need for unemployment
Statistics indicate that unemployment and under employment are around 20 percent, especially, among youth between the ages of 15 - 24. (Central Bank Report 2015). This is mainly due to a lack of integration between general education and vocational education.
At present, it is heartening to see strategic steps being taken to integrate G.C.E (O/L) qualification with the NVQ process. This is certainly a giant step in the right direction.
Then again, reports from different industries reveal ample entry level job opportunities in the labour market.
Unfortunately, access to information on such vocational education opportunities are not readily made available at village and district levels, to youth, their parents,
peers and guardians, despite designated officials being positioned to disseminate information.
At this juncture, what is being taught in our vocational educational centres need to be dynamic, relevant and market driven.
For example, our vocational centres need to capture and incorporate the digital revolution going on in ICT and technologies. Curriculum need to be updated constantly in the light of the mammoth advancements taking place in trades and technologies.
Steps should be taken to upgrade the skill and knowledge levels of instructors who teach youth. They need to be given adequate industry exposure in new technological advancements.
For example, in automotive, construction and ICT sectors, vocational instructors should be brought up-to-date with the revolution that is taking place in these industries. In addition, our training centres need to be well equipped.
Private sector involvement
For lasting changes to come about in the above mentioned areas, the involvement of the private sector is important. The private sector should take steps to match the enormous investments that successive governments have made to uplift the standards of vocational education. After all, vocational education centres mainly train and provide youth for private sector job openings.
Therefore, the private sector needs to consider contributing towards the betterment of youth through their corporate social responsibility acts.
It may be that the private sector is left with only a thin margin of profits after settling their taxes and overheads.
Yet, they need to be involved in upgrading the skills and quality of vocational training programs by contributing to make the NVQ curriculum more market driven, facilitate the capacity building of vocational instructors and equip training facilities with state-of-the-art technology.
In addition, the private sector ought to show a keener interest in taking membership with the Industrial Sector Skills Councils that have been set up at national level. They also need to be more involved in uplifting the standards of vocational centres in rural localities, particularly, in the Northern, Eastern and Uva provinces.
Learn from the past
When we go through history, from the 1950s onward, decade after decade, we see how we failed to understand the youth and their aspirations. We rubbed them the wrong way and the consequences have been disastrous. We are quick to point our finger and say the youth do not have the right attitude and disposition to work.
But, a closer look will reveal they are disillusioned because their learning and work environments are wanting.
They also lack role models that could inspire them to soar! Isn’t it any wonder then that they become rebellious and boisterous.
Let the youth shine
Youth need to be told that the entire nation depends on them succeeding in their vocational calling, and that they need to lead an impressive life.
They ought to be given proper career guidance by which they could be inspired to pursue their goals, express their creative dreams and let their innate talents shine in the choice of their vocation.
Solutions to youth issues cannot be found individually. The concentrated efforts of government, private and public partnerships are required immediately.
It is time, for wiser generations to join hands with the youth; acknowledge their unique creativity, talents and energy and work together to build a prosperous country.
(The writer is an HRD practitioner)