Sarika was good at computers but not too keen on going to college. So, she took up computer programming courses, and is today working at Convergys as a systems programmer. Rajesh, on the other hand, did complete graduation but couldn’t get a job after that. But with a postgraduate diploma in travel and tourism he has joined an international airline. More and more young people are beginning to realise that there are many routes to a fulfilling career. A college degree is just one of them. Often a vocational qualification can enable you to learn the skills required to get a job.
College is the academic route to a career, which may involve further study at the postgraduate level. The vocational stream develops the job skills required by industry. More theoretical and research-oriented academic programmes are offered by universities, while polytechnics offer professional and vocational studies that are practical, technologically up-to-date and relevant to work needs.
In recent years, diploma and certificate providing institutes are developing job skills focused on employment. Most polytechnics offer courses that are often comparable to those at universities, but by working more closely with industry and commerce, they identify the knowledge, skills and experience demanded by employers and tailor the professional programmes accordingly. The subjects covered include archaeology and museology, advertising and sales promotion, mass communication and video production, travel and tourism management, actuarial science and several others which could provide the added specialisation for those entering these fields.
The qualifications are recognised by those in the industry and lead to hundreds of different careers, from business, computing, tourism or hospitality to fashion technology, mass communication, travel and tourism, to gems and jewellery, footwear technology, plastics, food processing and even construction management, among several others. Students at the postgraduate level can also access many of these courses.
Gem of a chance
The courses available today can suit almost any student, as they range from certificate courses of short duration—two weeks to one year, as also diploma programmes of 1-2 years. Those interested in creative pursuits can go in for fashion design, interior design, textile or accessory design, commercial art, or graphic design. During a two-three year programme students are provided adequate hands-on experience in designing, using a variety of computer programmes, and applying design techniques to practical use whether in apparel, jewellery work, interior design or graphic art for advertising and media. At the PG level, there are courses in gems and jewellery and footwear design too that can open up possibilities of working with various kinds of design houses, studios and footwear companies.
The courses in mass communication, television and public relations, prepare students for a host of jobs in areas such as advertising, public relations, journalism, and television.
Many of the courses teach you to work with cameras and sound and lighting equipment, conduct filming shoots, make presentations, direct short films and organise the wherewithal that goes into producing a television programme or film. Similarly, there are polytechnics that train for a range of para-medical courses, that can lead to jobs in radiology, medical laboratory technician, occupational therapy and so on which can directly provide jobs in hospital, clinics and nursing homes.
Moreover, the scope in the field of computers is endless, and you don’t require an engineering degree for it. From designing programmes, to software applications and multi-media there are now hundreds of institutes in every town and city which conduct short and long-term courses. Here again, it is the skills that most employers look for. If you can handle networking, database management, systems programming and are fluent in the many new computer languages and processes developed from time to time, jobs in this industry will not be difficult to find. Right now, of course, the buzz is for web designing, e-commerce and BPOs, for which neither the industry nor prospective employers can get enough trained personnel.
Even engineering diplomas can take you far. A three-year engineering diploma in various disciplines can lead on to technical jobs in the manufacturing sector. Most government polytechnics offer engineering diplomas in several different disciplines, for which admission is through a common entrance exam. Moreover, you can also extend your diploma to a degree either through a lateral entry into the second year of an engineering college, through the Associate Membership of the Institution of Engineers in the specified field, after passing the relevant exams. The Institution of Engineers is a professional engineering organisation that prepares diploma holders and working people for the Associate Membership Exam (AMIE) considered to be on par with B.E. / B.Tech and recognised as an eligible qualification to write competitive examinations like the Civil Services, Indian Engineering Services, GATE, etc., and for placement in government, the public and private sectors.
Degree of difference
Diplomas and certificate courses provided by polytechnics, previously scoffed at, are attractive alternatives to academic degree courses, and should not be dismissed lightly. Today, employers look for competence—the ability to perform tasks well, rather than ask how and where this competence was acquired. So, if you are creative, or have good communication skills, you can directly take up a good design or public relations course, and start working in the field of choice. Enjoy cooking? A good culinary arts programme can help you join a top hotel or restaurant as a chef. Moreover, if you still feel the need of a degree, do one through correspondence while working on the diploma programme, and so pass out not only with the skills required to get a good job, but also a degree, should you later wish to continue with higher studies.
While it would be difficult to vouch for the credentials of all such institutes, most do offer some basic training. Some institutions have a tie-up with the industry concerned, assuring their students a job at the end of the course. However, students are advised to follow a few guidelines that will ensure the right choice of institution. These are:
According to job portals and head hunters at least 2.2 million jobs will be created in the private sector over the next two years. Retail is expected to be the biggest generator of jobs, followed by IT and IT enabled services, telecom services, financial services, hospitality and healthcare, requiring professionals trained in communication, computer, electronic and technical, numerical and financial, hospitality and food services, media and communication, and para-medical skills. However, companies are unable to find trained people with these skills, and are now offering higher salaries, or undertaking the training themselves.
So, if your heart is in a particular field, don’t waste your time doing a degree, get started on your job with a vocational course.