January 7, 2012
DNA newspaper called them plumber goddesses. All seven women graduates of India’s first-ever computerized course in plumbing represented the very epitome of empowerment as they came forward to receive their trade certificates from Shri. Dilip Chenoy, CEO, National Skill Development Corporation, India.
The graduation ceremony for the three-month certification course in plumbing was organized as part of the workshop on Vocational Education and Haptics during the IEEE Conference on Technology Enhanced Education at the Amritapuri campus.
“We strongly believe that nothing is impossible for women,” shared Geetha Babu, 49, from Karunagappally, one of the seven graduates. “We hope to now earn our livelihood through this trade.”
“We believe that we are the very first lady plumbers in India. Although initially there was a fear of working on computers, we overcame that,” proudly stated Usha Kumar, also 49, from Alappadu.
The seven women were trained with a simulator tool before actually beginning the use of pliers and spanners. The online course with comprehensive audio and visual support was developed by Amrita’s AMMACHI Labs as part of a funded initiative of the Ministry of Human Resources Development, India.
“Wonderful work is being done here at Amrita,” stated Shri. Dilip Chenoy, speaking at the workshop on the need to provide vocational education to large numbers of people in India.
“I estimate that in 2020, there may be nearly 700 million people in the working population in India,” he said. “Those with college degrees may be only about 200 million. What qualification or skill would the remaining 500 million have? This is the challenge we are trying to address.”
Amrita is using haptics technology to develop self-contained training modules for many vocational trades, beginning with plumbing. It has already indigenously designed and fabricated India’s first haptics device Aptah. The word Aptah means touch in Sanskrit.
“Using haptic devices, learners actually get force feedback as if they were using the actual tools,” explained the lab staff. “This helps them learn in a safe manner without any wastage of material or any threat of body injury. When the students start working with the actual tools, they make fewer mistakes because of the training on haptic devices.”
The seven women graduates explained the step-by-step procedure in a virtual simulator for repairing a faucet and a clogged kitchen sink. The presentation was greeted by a whole-hearted applause from the appreciative audience.
The workshop also included invited talks by Dr. Vasudha Kamath, Vice-Chancellor, SNDT Women’s University, who emphasized that ICT should support quality education and Sri. Ramakrishna Sura, Joint Director of Adult Education, Jan Shiksha Sansthan (JSS), who highlighted his organization’s efforts for skill development.
“As unemployment is still a major problem in India, the Indian Government crafted schemes for people’s education focusing on the poor, the illiterates, the neo-literates, the under-privileged and the un-reached. Of the 300 JSS establishments allover India, 2 are working under Amrita,” he stated.
The speakers reiterated that vocational skill development programs are essential to combat unemployment and poverty.
“This is a wonderful initiative from Amrita,” stated a workshop participant from Ramakrishna Institute, Coimbatore, a premier center for vocational education in the country. “Now they should build training modules for other trades as well, in addition to plumbing.”
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