Pre-apprenticeships: Preparing Youth for Vocational Training

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  • Admin
  • 26 July, 2021

A pre-apprenticeship programme aids a smoother transition towards a full apprenticeship. It effectively builds stronger apprentices. Whilst an apprenticeship usually lasts for one to four years a pre-apprenticeship, akin to an internship, runs for weeks to a few months. 

A major selling point of pre-apprenticeships is that it is essentially the completion of the first stage of a full apprenticeship which means more exposure to ‘learning by doing’ early on. This bodes well for employers as they get a much better-prepared apprentice and also do not have to pay wages for skills picked up at the pre-apprenticeship stage.  Other benefits: 

 What Are the Advantages

- A pre-apprenticeship in many cases is a first experience towards employment training

- Provides insight into the real world of work; industry culture, safety practices, basic exposure to handling tools and equipment etc.,

- Builds an initial understanding of a trade or industry which is a valuable advantage when embarking on a new career path

- Besides trade/occupation-specific skills, a pre-apprenticeship is a great way to experience ‘soft skills’- which most employers believe are as important as technical skills. A pre-apprenticeship, for instance, offers a glimpse into work ethics, teamwork, problem-solving and communication skills

- Ultimately, pre-apprenticeships boost youth confidence in their decisions towards work by building familiarity in their chosen industry

What Does the Evidence Suggest

Known as pre-apprenticeships in Australia, ‘School based’ or ‘pre-vocational’ programs in Germany or simply ‘Access to Apprenticeships’ in England, research on the usefulness of pre-apprenticeship programs has studied impact on:

- Disadvantaged youth

- Improving subsequent take-up of full-length apprenticeships both by employers and youth

- Do pre-apprenticeships work well as a retention strategy for long-term workforce planning

- Effect of pre-apprenticeships on trades where erstwhile the number or quality of applicants for apprenticeships had been low

Also Read: A new direction to the hospitality industry with apprenticeships

In general, pre-apprenticeships have been analysed in the context of apprenticeship uptake, completion of apprenticeships, gaining employment, and on wages. Although a wider cohort is required to draw strong conclusions, it has been found that pre-apprenticeships have the potential to increase apprenticeship enrolment or the likelihood of staying on with other forms of employment training. Moreover, trades and occupations that have pre-apprenticeships as a pre-requisite to a full apprenticeships have higher completion rates. 

We can thus takeaway that pre-apprenticeships are definitely worth considering. But what does it mean for us? 

The School Connect

In the Indian context, a pre-apprenticeship can well be a key missing piece of the jigsaw towards building a more relevant higher education system- one that raises the profile of vocational training and gives our youth a much needed alternative path towards employment. We all know the sobering state of affairs; nearly 75 percent of our youth are considered not ‘employable’, a massive skills-jobs mismatch has left employers clambering, not enough decent jobs (meaning pay, security, worker rights), and around 12 million youth entering the workforce annually- a demographic dividend or curse depending on how we deal with this labyrinthine crisis. 

Ergo, where do pre-apprenticeships fit in and what is their value add? The answer lies in early vocational education, effectively throwing a life-line to youth before they get to secondary stage- the tipping point with the highest drop-out rate of school kids. Most leave without a useful education or any relevant skills. What happens to them? No surprises that they find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of ‘survival’, flitting in and out of non-aspirational jobs, or worse adding to the already swelling informal workforce threatening the country’s hankering to become the skill capital of the world. 

Pre-apprenticeships shear off time from conventional secondary study. It is therefore imperative for Indian vocational training and mainstream schools to include pre-apprenticeship programs with the explicit goal to offer an alternate path to students and promoting a smooth transition towards full apprenticeships. Such a move in our opinion, has immense potential in greatly boosting apprenticeship numbers from the lowly 3-4 lakhs that we currently have.

Pre-apprenticeship courses can become an integral part of regular schooling, undertaken part-time whilst at school.  And if institutions help match youth to employers willing to provide some exposure to a trade, it is easy to see how pre-apprenticeships can bring about a sea change in closing the skills-demand mismatch even before youth begin their apprenticeship journeys.  Another advantage is building loyalty towards the idea of apprenticeships to amp the brand value of apprenticeships and vocational education; hitherto considered a ‘second class’ education by a deeply prejudiced Indian mindset. 

Also Read: Why Upgrade Informal Apprenticeships

Sowing the Seeds

Pre-apprenticeships are definitely worth deliberating over, given their value add as a viable skill-building learning path integrated with mainstream education. Given our current skills crisis, adopting out-of-the-box models to boost youth employability and generate demand-driven jobs is the way forward. Pre-apprenticeships may well be one of them. 

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