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Are Skills Training Centres of Excellence Up to the Job?

We continue from Part I – Are Industrial Training Institutes Up to The Job? where we examined the quality of technical and vocational education (TVET) provided in regular ITIs.  In this article we focus on the second half of the research – Quality of VET in India: The Case of Industrial Training Institutes, conducted by IIM Bangalore and the University of Cologne. Here, we turn our attention to ‘upgraded ITIs’ – namely, the Centres of Excellence.

Quality standards and their execution play a cardinal role in how training institutes perform. The performance is judged across several criteria such as curricula, teaching methods, trainers, quality of infrastructure, assessment and certification, and finally the holy grail of skill development- alignment of acquired skills to actual demand.


In 2005-06, in a bid to enhance skills of trade-trained individuals, the Indian government launched a programme to upgrade 500 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) that year, and at a rate of 100 ITIs annually thereafter.  These modernised centres would come to be known as Centres of Excellence (COE)- signaling strong intent to take skill building to the next level and produce a world-class workforce. Then in 2007, a public-private-partnership scheme came along to upgrade 1,396 ITIs at an outlay of Rs 3,665 crores. Further along in December 2014, yet another scheme was instituted, this time to upgrade existing state ITIs into ‘Model ITIs’ at a cost Rs 300 crores for three years, which in 2018 got extended to March 2020. With different names for similar schemes was this a case of old wine in new bottles? Well, we do know that as of 2014, 1,896 government ITIs had been upgraded to COE statusi and the number of COEs or Model ITIs continue to grow going by regular news coverage of new ones being established. 

The Need

ITIs are a major funnel for skill development in the country, with a host of government schemes aligned to them, including the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme. The market relevance of ITIs has however come into question. A major critique is that ITIs are supply driven, with little alignment to labour market demand. Other critiques have been low quality infrastructure and substandard quality of trainers and the training curriculum. Ergo, the upgradations were considered salient, with the key objectives being:

  • Upgraded training infrastructure and equipment 
  • Stronger linkages with industry to reduce supply-demand imbalances. We strongly believe that ‘learning by doing’ approaches such as apprenticeships are fully deserving of their reputation as highly effective in bridging the skills-jobs mismatch and must become a core consideration of COEs and ITIs in their efforts to partner with industry for skills development 
  • Yearlong broad-based multi-skilling courses followed by short-term specialised modular courses 
  • Flexible courses with multiple entry/exit points
  • Each ITI to have an Institute Management Committee (IMC) with industry representation as Chair

Key Findings 

The study in reference looked at a cross-section of six upgraded ITIs in Karnataka to provide regional representation of the overall functioning and impact of ITIs vis-à-vis the trades identified and industry demand. 

The major findings were:

  1. Low brand image of COEs among students, parents and industry contributed to extremely low demand for courses 
  2. Not all COEs had upgraded training infrastructure- a key promise of the COE scheme
  3. Trainers cited ‘an urgent need’ for more regular training and career advancement opportunities. Read: Training the Trainer – Often Overlooked?
  4. A double whammy of low enrollment and high attrition of girl students due to lack of a conducive training environment for women. Read: Are Apprenticeships and Vocational Training Equal Opportunity Providers?
  5. Feeble IMC role extended mostly to administrative affairs or as an advisory figurehead- more talk than walk. Little involvement in staff training, building awareness of COEs amongst the community and local industries. 
  6. Poor English skills in students severely hampered comprehension of training. This points to a need for soft skills training being as important as trade skills. 

You may also like Role of Quality Assurance in TVET


Admittedly, the findings are from a small sample size and making sweeping generalisations will be foolhardy. However, this study does hold its own in shedding light on core issues- given that there are no comprehensive empirical evaluations of COEs or Model ITIs and their impact on key outcome parameters such as demand for courses, retention in the classroom, placement rates, and down the line retention in the workplace. In a nutshell, it boils down to adequate quality management models in ITIs and a need for greater collaboration between ITIs, academia, government and industry for cross-country research and fact-finding on how to enhance the effectiveness of ITIs. 

Also read: The Matter of Job Creation in India

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