Apprenticeship - the most power vehicle for Skill India

By Rohit Nandan, Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.  

Apprenticeship training is one of the most efficient way to develop skilled manpower for industry by using training facilities available in the establishments without putting any extra burden on exchequer to set up training infrastructure.

Persons after undergoing apprenticeship training can easily adapt to industrial environment at the time of regular employment. In a study done by IAMR (2012), it was observed that Apprenticeship Training is the best training program in terms of employability with 67% of the manpower getting employment. Growth of apprenticeship training is likely to lead to much higher employment than any other existing training program in India.

More than five decades have elapsed and extensive changes having been made to the Indian industry. Despite a significant growth in the manufacturing sector, emergence of an even larger services sector, and the introduction of a large number of vocational courses which fill in for the requirement of multi-skillsets, we only have less than 3 lakh apprentices currently in India. This is a very small proportion of the 1.2 crore people who annually join our workforce. As against that, countries such as Japan, Germany and China have 3, 20 and 10 million apprentices, respectively. Clearly, the scale of apprenticeship in India has been abysmal. Skill adoption and advancement is imperative keeping in tune with the changing dynamics in the work environment across industries today which are seeing multi-tasking, automation and change is process management.

Skill development through the apprenticeship model is a good win-win approach for both the industry and youth who are freshers and unemployed. The value and impact of apprenticeship system is the highest among various skilling schemes and studies have shown that the industry directly benefits from enhanced skills, higher productivity and better professionalism once apprentices join the workforce. This system also substantially improves the employability and market value of the youth as well as their capability to become self-employed.

India lags far behind in imparting skill training as compared to other countries. Only 10% of the total workforce in the country receives skill training. Further, 80% of the entrants into the workforce do not have the opportunity for skill training.

In line with the benefits that were identified for promoting apprenticeship in the country, comprehensive amendments to Apprentices Act 1961 were made. The Act has been made more responsive to industry and youth. Employers can now engage up to 10% of its total workforce as apprentices. As a result, the number of apprentices in the country has increased from 2.70 lakh to 3.10 lakh in the past one year.

Onsite Inspection has been done away with and companies are now allowed to self asses and submit reports of its achievements vis-a-vis the targets.  A fine is now levied instead of imprisonment in case the company violates the Apprentice Act. Based on the newer technologies and emergent business landscape, the industry can introduce optional trades, beyond the 259 designated trades of the National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT).

Companies operating in four or more states can now work directly with the central authorities and companies can also outsource basic theoretical/classroom training. Third Party Agencies (TPA) can be used for getting apprentices for training and a new scheme of ‘National Apprentice Promotion Scheme’ started for incentivising apprenticeship in MSMEs.

To bring respect and dignity to youth engaged as apprentices and support them in covering basic necessities, the stipend payable has been directly linked to minimum wages at the state level. The revised stipend would be 70% of the minimum wages in the first year, followed by 80% and 90% in the second and third years, respectively. Industry should be free to pay higher stipend to apprentices.

Industry is no more limited to follow the trade wise ratio for apprentices and Graduates and Postgraduates of Arts, Science and Commerce can also undergo apprenticeship training. Apprenticeship training has also been now extended to the service sector.

The duration of apprenticeship has also be revised and rationalised and youth can now work between six months (minimum) to three years (maximum), with a mutual consensus to limit most of the courses to two years.

To make things easier for the youth as well as the industry, an apprenticeship portal has also been recently launched by the Prime Minister where all companies would be required to publish their trade-wise requirement of apprentices. This would serve as a convenient platform to match the demand and supply of apprentices across industries and geographies. Apprentices are now encouraged to apply online and apprenticeship contract approval would also be online. This would make way for online interaction among apprenticeship applicants, government and the corporates. The Corporates would publish apprenticeship details on this portal instead of submitting tedious returns and the government would get data directly from the portal.

The National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme has also recently received a cabinet approval of 10,000 crore, in which it is proposed to provide 25% of stipend payable to apprentices as subsidy to employers as it will motivate employers to engage more apprentices.  The scheme will give highest priority to MSMEs in the manufacturing sector.

It is hence quite clear that the public and the private sector will have to collaborate and work on creating aspiration and respect for skills among the youth of the country. This is a big challenge to address and it is imperative that the youth understands the difference that skill development programmes can make to their lives - something that degrees or certificates alone cannot. And if driven well, apprenticeship can potentially become the most powerful vehicle under the Skill India Mission launched by the Prime Minister.