The youth of Sweden, Russia, Morocco, China and the like are encouraged to pursue vocational education and training opportunities. In India, however, this state of affairs is progressing only at a measured pace.

The above-mentioned countries are focusing on innovating pedagogy by incorporating technology, encouraging computational thinking and digital literacy. Student-led learning, connecting guardians with schools to enhance familial information, exposure and cooperation when the candidate makes career decisions by undergoing education and training in the field of their choice and aptitude, are trending phenomena.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) envisage the pursuit of quality education (Goal 4), gender equality (Goal 5), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9), reduced inequalities (Goal 10) and partnerships for the goals (Goal 17). If career counseling were brought to center stage in the vocational-career domain, India would perhaps be able to advance toward these goals across all strata of society by dealing with the aforementioned challenges.

Considering the diversity of Indian youth along with record dropout rates and a considerable proportion of population not in employment, education or training (NEET), the case for an expeditious advancement of formulating and executing policies for career guidance and career counseling at all the levels – national, state and grassroots – is a necessity. The measures to strengthen education and training in vocational education would not only serve to reduce the factors leading to unemployment but would also aid in generating employability and enhance critical service and manufacturing operations in the current phase of Indian economic growth.

An orientation toward “life skills” is also the need of the hour, whereby candidates are made aware about existing market dynamics for making career decisions, but also undergo behavioral modification, gender sensitization, physical education and leadership skills considered essential for their personal development. Experts in this subject are collaborating with curriculum experts to bridge the gaps among personal, social and career progress of youth. In-service training of counselors and psychotherapists along with strengthening  the content of certificate, diploma and degree courses for becoming counselors are also trending.

Varied interventions as early as school level can pave the way for the transformation of India’s human-resource base toward vocational and mainstream lines of education, training and professions. Free-of-cost measures could, for instance, include inclusion of a separate 30-minute time period for students to discover and/or pursue activities of their choice like music, fine arts or photography. Schools’ in-house publications to give information to students and parents about the array of occupational choices available in the country as well as establishing a network of schools, counselors and employers for organizing career fairs, workshops, study tours, etc could be another measure.

A more advanced intervention for candidates in school or university and mid-professionals and the type could involve monetary and human-resource investment by striking for partnerships either with neighboring countries or with the transitioning economies like the other components of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) for preparing job hubs or job exchanges through a co-investment counseling model by sharing capacity-building, advisory, supervisory and monitoring services with the group members.

Given the skewed counselor-candidate ratio in India, a team of para-counsellors could be developed through online or offline mode(s) for an immediate deployment of the newly created counselor pool to guide candidates on the ground. Like the countries referred to at the beginning of this article, advancement of a bipartite system of education with a curriculum intermix of mainstream and vocational education and perhaps study visits of candidates yet to undergo training could be an effective measure to expose them to the various opportunities awaiting them.

Progress toward these measures would improve the availability of information on career guidance and education, especially in the vocational domain.