Women’s participation in the workforce continues to decline across the world. The situation is particularly stark in India, some of the reasons for which are expounded here.
While the battle to fight social norms keeping women away from the workforce will be a protracted one, an urgent step towards bridging the gender gap in India’s workforce was taken in the form of a round table on ‘Driving Holistic Reform in the Women ITI Ecosystem in India’.
Held on October 18, 2019 in New Delhi, the JP Morgan-backed multi-stakeholder consultation focused on identifying the challenges faced by young female Industrial Technical Institute (ITI) graduates when it comes to entering and staying in the workforce, and ways to equip them with 21st century skills for the ever-changing future of work.
“The discussions saw contributions from over 50 key stakeholders from the women ITI ecosystem.”
Reiterating the importance of employability skills, Director General of Training, MSDE, Rajesh Aggarwal emphasized on critical foundational changes that need to be urgently taken to enhance women ITIs’ contribution towards reducing the gender gap in India’s workforce.
“Women make up only 13%-14% of the total admissions in an ITI,” Mr Aggarwal said while addressing the gathering comprising key stakeholders from the ITI ecosystem in India. “The DGT plans to add new norms that call out an increased focus on safety and basic infrastructure, like toilets, to encourage more women to enrol in ITIs,” he added.
Change Map for Women ITIs in India
Having trained 2,50,000 young people with over 50% engaged in work today, Quest Alliance’s youth-centric program MyQuest has outlined a six-point reform agenda for women ITIs. As a change map, these reform areas are driven by the need for a holistic change in the ecosystem:-
- Career Development: Quest Alliance’s research shows that women in ITIs find it twice as hard as their male counterparts to pursue career development goals. According to a nation-wide survey from 2018-19 that covered over 200 ITI principals, 86% felt that work-readiness training and new age life skills should be prioritised for any career development related engagement in ITIs. A dedicated focus on critical career awareness, therefore, is crucial and will help augment trade knowledge.
- Effective Pedagogy: Trainers typically follow traditional pedagogy and often recreate gender stereotypes in the classroom. This a major challenge as trainers and classrooms are a focus point in any intervention focusing on career development. Quest Alliance’s research with government ITI heads and trainers across the country shows that women ITIs can experience significant change through a policy focus on refresher trainings that focus on:
a) skill upgradation, and
b) ability to run interactive and engaging blended learning-based classrooms
- Industry Engagement: Research shows that women in ITIs do not have exposure to core work skills and industry knowledge that can help them find or stay in jobs effectively. An online survey covering 200 women conducted by Quest Alliance in 2018 validates this. Nearly 70% of alumni admitted that it is tougher for women to find jobs because of the additional challenges they face. A robust system to build an employer-alumni network will ensure that women learners are better prepared for careers.
- Engaging Parents: The decision to opt for a certain trade and pursue a career is often guided by parents. In fact, Quest Alliance’s research – covering 200 women across Delhi and Rajasthan – shows that 70% of women were found to have discontinued working within six months of joining their first job. This is a shocking statistic. Hence, it is critical to engage parents in this process.
- Self-Learning Hub: Student self-learnings hubs are based on the idea of student-led career focused initiatives such as local market scans and peer-support for information gathering. Quest Alliance’s studies have found that a vast majority of ITI heads (85%) across the country agree that, if formalised, these hubs can play a critical role in furthering career-related information seeking for women learners.
- Leadership for Change: ITI heads/principals form an important unit of institute level change in the system. Quest Alliance’s research finds that principals, if armed with tools and information regarding building industry relationships, engaging parents effectively and serving as role models for trainers, can play an important role in supporting women learners’ career aspirations.