In Odisha, govt ITIs log highest ever enrolment amid Covid-19; pvt ones lag behind

For the first time in more than a decade, government ITIs in Odisha have reported less than 5 per cent vacancy among the 18,000-odd seats that were advertised in the current academic session boosting the state government’s mission of “Skilled in Odisha”.

Officials in the Skill Development and Technical Education department said in 2020-21 academic year, around 96 per cent of the 18,258 seats in 49 government ITIs have been filled up till now, the highest so far. The figure is likely to improve further as spot admissions are scheduled to continue till November 20. In comparison, the 490-odd private ITIs in the state have 66 per cent of the 77,184 seats going vacant with many of the private ITIs reporting 90-95 per cent vacancy.

Officials said the dwindling vacancies in the government ITIs are a far cry from what it was 5 years ago when around 6700 seats remained vacant. “We never had it so good. Had the Covid pandemic not happened, we would have filled up all the seats this year. The increased enrolment is a testament of the quality of education and placement opportunities being provided in government ITIs. Government ITIs have now better infrastructure in terms of labs and well-qualified teachers. The buildings no longer look drab and the ITI students have their own uniform designed by National Institute of Fashion Design,” said Reghu G, director of department of technical education and training.

Though the uptick in government ITI admission has been happening due to the improved quality of education and infrastructure, the placing of 7 government ITIs from the state among the 100 top ITIs of the country in the list drawn up by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship recently may have been a factor in pushing the enrolment despite the pandemic-induced slowdown. Apart from the 7 government ITIs, 4 private ITIs of Odisha too featured in the top 100 ITI list.

Rashmita Panda, chief executive of Odisha Skill Development Authority, that provides all-round direction to various skill development initiatives of the state government, said counselling in high schools by government ITIs may have been one reason in the surge of admission. “Teachers from many of the government ITIs go to local schools to motivate the students to join ITI. While governments ITIs have been canvassing in schools to get newer students, private ITIs have not been that aggressive. Another programme named Sudakshya that made ITI education free for girls too has pushed enrolment of girls from 6 per cent 3 years ago to 18 per cent now. All the ITIs barring five have separate hostels for girl students,” said Panda. Scholarships for children of construction workers also led to increase in enrolment.

The buzz around the government ITIs began in 2016 when the government started Skilled in Odisha Mission to provide skilled hands to the manufacturing ecosystem of the country. “ITIs in Odisha had not many takers as students enrolled in ITIs if they could not do anything worthwhile after college. There was an information asymmetry. Though people in a few districts knew there is an ITI around, most people – parents, teachers, district officials had no idea what happened in there. Empowering the ITIs and unleashing their true potential made common sense,” said Ajay Panda, deputy director of DTET.

To build up the brand ITI, the government signed up with Tata Strive, a Mumbai-based Trust to impart training on communication and other life skill to the students for increasing employability. More than 200 teachers from 49 government ITIs were sent to ITEEs in Singapore for training on knowledge, skills, innovations and best practices. Temasek Foundation International supported this training programme.

While persuading teenagers in villages and towns to enroll in ITIs was one part of the task, increased placement through central placement cell as well as at the level of individual ITIs, has also been a factor. Of all the students who are passing out of government ITIs, anything between 17-18 per cent are managing to get placed. Individual ITIs like Berhampur ITI are reporting even higher placement. This year despite the pandemic-induced slowdown, 1346 students have been placed in different companies. To encourage entrepreneurship among the students, the government has started Nano-Unicorn funding under which each of the selected student gets Rs 1 lakh assistance to start their own project which they have to return without any interest

Owners of private ITI said the fall in enrolment in non-government ITIs was due to faulty policies of government than anything else. “Though Covid has taken a toll on admission this year, the government has refused to extend the benefits of Sudakshya scheme to girl students of private ITIs. Had that happened, many girl students who wanted to take admission could have taken admission in our ITIs. Besides, there is much uncertainty over the examination as the final exam scheduled in July has not happened due to Covid,” said Arun Kumar Nayak, president of State Pvt ITI Association.

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