Contrary to popular misconceptions, hiring an apprentice is an exciting opportunity for both the apprentice as well as the employer. This is because it facilitates mutual growth. The time and training invested in apprentices yield multiple rewards for an organization as they can tailor skill sets to the needs of the business or industry. It opens up a world of learning and opportunity for the apprentices as well for they acquire on-the-job skills and can look forward to further growth within the same organization.
Policymakers in India and abroad are beginning to see great potential in expanding the role of apprenticeship as it combines work-based learning with along with theoretical knowledge. Research shows that apprenticeships account for 70% of competence development in many countries. Countries like Switzerland, have already established a system of providing world-class apprenticeship opportunities, with 95% of its 25 years olds equipped with a BA-level degree or a recognized occupational certification through apprenticeship. In many technologically advanced European countries such as Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, apprenticeships begin mostly in the late high school years, absorbing 50-70% of young people on their way to valued occupational qualifications, especially in manufacturing, commercial, and managerial positions. These countries represent a working model for limiting youth unemployment with the implementation of a robust apprenticeship system.
77% of employers are expected to increase apprentice uptake during Jul-Dec 2022
The apprenticeship program in India has undergone several iterations over the last few years with a view to simplifying and easing the process of apprenticeship. This was followed by the introduction of the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) in 2016. The Central Apprenticeship Council also carried out reforms in July 2019 to expand apprenticeship opportunities. The government has been expanding the scope of apprenticeship through catalysts in the form of Third Party Aggregators (TPAs) that can work in clusters with both MSMEs and large industries. They are empowered to help aggregate demand in these clusters, pool resources in the case of SMEs, mobilize potential apprentices, deliver basic training, facilitate the paperwork, and above all, educate stakeholders on the need for an apprenticeship. Regulatory powers have also been delegated to the industry-led Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) to administer apprenticeships in their respective sectors. All these initiatives indicate a steady increase in the intent to engage apprentices as is evident from the Net Apprenticeship Outlook (NAO) study which indicates a phenomenal increase in degree apprentices from 10% in Jan-Jun 2022 to 53% in Jul-Dec 2022. Aerospace & Aviation, Agriculture & Agrochemicals, and Services including repair & maintenance are the key sectors for degree apprentices.
Empower Transition from the Informal to Formal Sector
Apprenticeship can be defined as a formal pathway between academic institutions and industry where a learner gets hands-on/practical exposure to use the acquired knowledge and skills in a particular trade or trade. A major issue in India is the absence of an apprenticeship framework in the informal sector. According to the Economic Survey 2018, 87% of firms, representing 21% of total turnover, are purely informal, lying beyond the purview of both the tax and social security nets. The survey glaringly points out that the size of the formal sector (defined here as being either in the social security or GST net) is a mere 13% of total firms in the private non-agriculture sector. Small and medium entrepreneurs usually start their businesses by being a trainee, earning while learning. The training under the guidance of a master craftsperson, senior mechanic, or master chef may not be an organized and structured one but the concept gets applied effectively due to the hands-on experience gained at a service center, a restaurant, or a tailoring center. In certain cases, and after a certain duration, some of these workers take the entrepreneurial route, while others continue as employees. The NEP 2020 and the National Credit Framework (NCrF) are working towards including skill training and experiential learning within the purview of formal learning to alleviate the economic issues inherent in the presence of a large informal economy.
Apprenticeship programs are the way forward for employers to deal with the twin issues of skill shortage and lack of employability. These programs provide employers with the opportunity to tap young talent at an early stage in their learning curve and groom them per the needs and expectations of their industry. Apprenticeships being a structured form of paid worker training creates a mutually profitable arrangement as they boost workers’ earnings and at the same time help to raise the sponsoring companies’ productivity levels. It is time for Indian employers to follow in the steps of many other countries and look upon the apprenticeship route as the crucial tool to develop a highly-skilled, competitive workforce.