Why is Apprenticeship not a widespread phenomenon in India?

The primary Apprenticeship model has had limited success due to a rigid 52-year-old law. With periodic revisions and amendments as recent as Sept 2019, the law has been updated with new schemes and provisions. Regulatory reforms via NAPS (National Apprenticeship Program Scheme) and MSDE (Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship) offer financial incentives to organisations who engage apprentices for employment fast-tracking the growth rate of the Indian economy.

Young Indians are not familiar with the apprenticeship system; it is an effective way for young adults from rural and sub-urban populations to transit from school to work-life while improving links between industry and training institutions. Apprentices do not have proper guidance for establishing a stable career, in the same lines as offered to students from mainstream academics or from corporations who employ graduate employees. Besides, due to digitalisation and technological boom in the modernised world, apprenticeship had taken a backseat. However, things are quickly changing as improved reforms are brought in by the government to re-popularise apprenticeship as a means to a career and an entryway to job markets of all sizes.

There is evident participation of prominent Indian organisations with national and global presence modifying their hiring policy to allow an influx of apprentice hiring in their organisations. This approach has opened doors to citizens from various socio-economic backgrounds, especially those disadvantaged by income and regional differences. 


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The 20th to the 21st-century transition of apprenticeship 

India has reformed its pitfalls and now has a robust and regulated apprenticeship system. However, as in the case with many other countries, the original law was laid down in the mid-twentieth century. At that time, the state of the economy was very different (for example, greater emphasis was on manufacturing and trade). Expectations concerning work and learning were also changed. In particular, the understanding that learning begins only at the start of one’s working life had been altered. In the UK, apprenticeships have increased ten-fold in less than a decade, and now over 130,000 businesses offer apprentices opportunities. On the other hand, countries like Canada have continued to confine their apprenticeship system primarily to manufacturing and construction jobs. Although their systems are successful, they are narrow in reach.

India faces a choice about whether to move into mass apprenticeships or to remain with a relatively limited apprenticeship system. Currently, India has only about 300,000 apprentices compared with a labour force of nearly 500 million people. This proportion of less than 0.01% of the workforce compares unfavourably with the countries having ‘small’ systems, such as the United States with a participation rate of 0.3% of the workforce. There are also larger systems operating effectively such as Germany and Australia, which both have around 3.7% of their workforces participating in apprenticeships.

How apprentice programs and apprentices can add value to organisations and the economy?

A report by ILO (Indian Labour Office) published in 2013 envisages first-hand case studies of SMEs in India who compared their costs and benefits of employing apprenticeships. Interestingly, they found a positive return for the firms as early as the first year following a completed apprenticeship. Similarly, findings from Canada, Germany, Switzerland and the UK show that an apprentice contributes productively and creates an additional (often monetary and qualitative) benefit to the company.

Therefore, undoubtedly – irrespective of the industry – investing in an apprenticeship scheme can provide real benefits and contribute to the bottom line of an organisation.

The aerospace sector and broader engineering and manufacturing sectors have a long history of first-class apprenticeships with many of the industry’s leading figures being former apprentices themselves. As indigenous efforts gather momentum with a focus on developing technology, supply chain, manufacturing capability and skills, apprenticeship will play a key role. Many countries have made an effort to change their archaic apprenticeship systems.

India can also learn from Germany’s successful dual education model which has been historically cited as a successful model of education and training.

Hiring apprentice and future possibilities:

The Apprenticeship Protsahan Yojana (APY) launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasises skill development. It highlights the enormous potential the country has to provide toward workforce resources to the world by 2020. The “Apprenticeship Portal” launched by Prime Minister is another such initiative that continues to shed a spotlight on the apprentice opportunities available on the everyday market which can be well used by corporations and apprentices. It enables hiring skilled workforce for higher productivity.

According to the Oct 2019 study by leading recruitment firm TeamLease Services and National Employability through Apprenticeship Programme (NETAP), the economic revival is underway after a relatively slow growth rate in the past years. Presently 40% of employees in manufacturing revealed a positive intent toward hiring apprentices. In the services sector, 42% of companies said they are willing to hire apprentices in the second half of their financial year.

The study which brings out the sentiment regarding apprentice hiring surveyed 500 employees across 12 sectors. It found 64% of companies are currently not hiring apprentices, but 41% of employees are likely to engage them in this calendar year. It is to be noted that the average stipend earned by an apprentice is Rs. 12000 per month, which is higher than what many graduates are making after the decline of the economy and the consequential downfall of the job market. This fact by itself emboldens the initiatives set out and popularised by government aid institutions and forums to promote apprenticeship hiring such as SDC, Ministry of health and education, HRD and HRM.


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Finally, it should be stressed that the sizeable informal apprenticeship system represents a large section of the economy where employers, workers and families well understand the general concept of apprenticeship, and thus a large potential pool of employers and would-be apprentices will make the current system a reformed and formal one.

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