When a Vocational Course Makes Sense

You just received your marks. They're OK, maybe good enough to enroll at a decent college, but you're still not sure if higher education is right for you. What other options do you have that can lead to a successful career and a decent salary?

The vocational school course

Selecting your course -- whether job, vocational school or college -- usually occurs after class VIII, X or XII. Those who decide to transition straight into the workforce may find entry-level opportunities in trades such as housekeeping, food services, modelling, catering, hotel management or fashion technology.

For students who receive high marks on their exams -- and who have a professional career in mind -- a university education may make the most sense. This course allows you to earn a bachelor's degree and even progress to the master's or doctoral level.

For those who want more than an entry-level job but may not be interested in college, vocational courses provide an alternative. These trade-based programmes help prepare X or XII graduates for careers such as metallurgy, Linux administration, carpentry or baking. Key benefits of vocational programmes include the following:

1. Time to completion: Courses vary in length but some take only six months
2. Cost of studies: The government sponsored vocational programmes cost little or nothing
3. Career readiness: Employers know that you have the skills to begin work right away

Vocational education often combines hands-on activities with theoretical studies, giving students solid preparation to enter a wide variety of careers.

Vocational course options: take your pick

Students with an eye on vocational training have a variety of options from which to choose. Polytechnics, for instance, offer diploma and certificate programmes in science and technology disciplines such as engineering and computer science. Polytechnic institutes can be run by private entities or by the government, and some even cater to women specifically. Specialty schools also provide numerous vocational opportunities, with sharp focus on cooking, fire safety, animation and similar occupations.

A third choice for vocational training comes from industrial training institutes, or ITIs. Although similar to polytechnics, ITIs tend to concentrate more on a specific occupation. Private industrial training centres, or ITCs, can help students earn a diploma or certificate, as well.

After completion of ITI or ITC training and a pass on the All India Trade Test, the National Council for Vocational Training awards a National Trade Certificate. After practical on-the-job training, you can pass another test for the National Apprenticeship Certificate. If you want to specialise, you can take short-term courses at Advanced Training Institutes.

If you do not live near a training centre, you can sign up for distance learning programmes. Vocational courses through online learning range from solar energy technology to hotel front-office operations.

What about wages?

When you think about a career, ask which industries are growing. March 2012 numbers from the Labour Bureau show an increase in jobs in transportation and IT. Other hot industries include manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and health care, business and real estate.

You can also explore opportunities in construction, which ranks as the second-largest contributor to the GDP after agriculture. The Construction Industry Development Council lists 47 different trades, from mason to rigger to hydraulic excavator operator. PayScale posts a salary for structural metal fabricators or fitters in India at Rs. 1 lac per year, which is similar to pay for a junior customer service position and higher than India's per capita income, estimated at Rs. 84,600.

Vocational training as a smart alternative

You may need to convince your loved ones that vocational education can pay off; many people still think a bachelor's degree is the only pathway to success. India Education Review suggests that society needs to change its image of skilled trades and give these important jobs the respect they deserve. In India, it's hard to switch from a vocational to an academic track, so gather as much information as possible before you decide on a career path. The country needs skilled workers in a wide range of industries, so you can most likely find something that matches your talents, whether it's operating heavy machinery or baking delicious pastry. Consider your academic record, ambitions and interests, and how soon you would like to start a rewarding career. Vocational education may be a good decision for you.

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