Many in Kerala look down upon blue-collar jobs even though thousands of Keralites do such jobs abroad and elsewhere in India. To get rid of this perception is the primary objective of state-owned Kerala Academy for Skills Excellence (KASE), said a top official.
Blue-collar jobs primarily include electricians, plumbers, carpenters, traditional craftsmen, refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanics, those involved in wall and floor tiling, bakery and restaurant services, florists and others.
Aiming to skill the young workforce of Kerala, as also elevate their skills to global standards, KASE promotes, establishes, sets up, monitors, governs and regulates institutions and academies.
Talking to IANS, KASE Director Sriram Venkitaraman, a young doctor-turned-bureaucrat, pointed out "the day the perception towards blue-collar jobs in our state changes, Kerala will have no reason to look back".
"If one goes to the Middle East, we can see Keralites happily working at such jobs; but that's not the case here.
"Our aim is to see that we change this perception and for that we have already started equipping all such people with additional skills. If things go as planned, all such workers will soon be making a beeline not just to Middle East but to other parts of the world as we have a huge population of the youth seeking jobs," said Venkitaraman.
He said they have started to tap into the industrial training institutes -- 91 in the government sector and 450 in the private sector -- where more than 60,000 youth who have completed school education join annually.
"We had been to Singapore, which currently is the world leader in training students in these trades.
"We will soon enter into an agreement with the Singapore government which will be our knowledge partner to turn our ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes) into state-of-the-art institutes. For this, the state government has worked out a budget of Rs 800 crore, of which, in the first phase, Rs 228 crore would be allocated," he said.
Venkitaraman, who has travelled all over the world, pointed out that in the West, blue-collars workers are respected and this attitude is what he plans to bring to India.
As part of its strategy, KASE has, in the past few months, been conducting zonal and district-level competitions aimed at identifying and training the youth to participate and win medals at the World Skills Competition that is scheduled to be held in the city of Kazan in south-western Russian in 2019.
"We ran a competition where we had just one condition -- that all participants should be younger than 21. A total of 7,500 participants competed to showcase their vocational skills in 20 trades -- 120 of whom have been selected for the state finals to be held at Kochi over three days from April 28.
"Of these, 40 will be selected to represent their state at the national level after which the final selection for Russia would be made," said Venkitaraman.
He said taking part in the state-level finals are electricians, plumbers, carpenters and traditional craftsmen, and the three-day event will be a held on a "massive scale" and will also be open to the public.
"Basically, we want to showcase this event as we feel this could be one way to change the perception that prevails here," he said.