Skill deprivation is a major handicap among the youth in the country, says a Plan panel report, and suggests remedial measures

Say ‘The Apprentice’ and most people are likely to remember the reality show. But the awareness of the concept of apprenticeship is limited to that. As far as the training programme is concerned, in India, the response is rather cold.

Experts often use comparisons with Germany or Japan, where the number of apprentices are a few millions, while India has an abysmal four lakh apprentices in any given year.

The National Apprenticeship Scheme was launched in 1959. The Apprentices Act, 1961, came into force in 1962. The training of graduates and diploma holders in Engineering and Technology as graduate and technician apprentices was brought within the purview of the Act through an amendment in 1973.

The Apprentices Act was further amended in 1986 to bring within its purview the training of students passing out of the 10+2 vocational stream as technician (vocational) apprentices.

The Act makes it obligatory for employers both in the public and private sectors to engage apprentices in designated trades prescribed under the rules. As many as 254 groups of industries are included.

The duration of training varies from six months to four years, depending on the requirements of the specified trade. The syllabi for different trades are prepared and finalised by the respective Trade Committees comprising trade experts from the industry.

In 2011, the Directorate General of Employment and Training published the results of a survey conducted two years earlier. The data was collected through the network of State Apprenticeship Advisors and Regional Directors of Apprenticeship Training.

Findings

As per the study, of the 31,587 establishments with intake capacity of 2.71 lakh, 27,681 establishments were engaging 1.86 lakh apprentices — 85 per cent utilisation of capacity in the central sector and 66 per cent in the State/private sector. The overall participation rate of establishments was 88 per cent. Twelve per cent of the establishments with training facilities had not participated in the apprenticeship training programme.

The percentage of utilisation of seats was 69, while the overall share of SC/ST candidates in the utilised seats was 16 per cent.

However, the study pointed out that there has been rise in overall trade apprenticeship training in terms of number of establishments having training facilities, establishments engaging apprentices, intake capacity and number of apprentices in 2009 compared to 2002.

Trade-wise

Trade-wise, the most popular amongst apprentices was the fitter trade (39,107 apprentices), followed by electrician (22,087), welder gas and electric (11,782), mechanic motor vehicle (11,004), lineman (10,663), mechanic diesel (9,028), turner (8,636), electronic mechanic (6,912), machinist (6580), wireman (4,663), programming and system administration assistant (4,523), refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic (3,386), and boiler attendant (3,114).

Employment

During 2009, 15,284 National Trade Certificate (NTC) holder apprentices were placed in jobs through employment exchanges as against 12,047 in 2007. As many as 3,619 apprentices had been placed with the same employers where they took training.

Noting that the scheme is not being used to its full capacity, the Planning Commission’s Sub Committee on ‘Re-modelling India’s apprenticeship regime” submitted a list of recommendations earlier in the same year.

The committee had used the tem “India’s skill crisis” and said in its report: “53 per cent of employed youth suffer some degree of skill deprivation while only eight per cent of youth are unemployed. 57 per cent of India’s youth suffer some degree of un-employability.”

Identifying the problems, the report had suggested that the source was the mismatch between demand and supply – 90 per cent of employment opportunities require vocational skills but 90 per cent of our college/school output has only bookish knowledge. The report also spoke about poor quality of skills show up in low incomes rather than unemployment (according to the report, 75 per cent of school finishers make less than Rs. 50,000 per year, 45 per cent of graduates makes less than Rs. 75,000 per year).

Recommendations

The sub-committee, citing examples of Europe, the U.S. and Germany, said the fundamental reason for the success of an apprenticeship programme is that it is based on a combination of formal education (in a classroom and online) and a programme to gain field experience with workplace practice.

Among the recommendations of the committee are: more industries such as telecom, insurance, banking and finance, information technology, and civil aviation and retail trade to be brought under the purview of the Central Government; discontinuing the need for an NOC; doing away with the insistence on filling up apprenticeship vacancies by the locals; increasing the stipend amount; reimbursement of 50 per cent of the stipend by the Government to the employers; reducing the duration of the apprenticeship programme to a maximum of one year; and expanding the graduate apprenticeship programme to include all graduate degrees (the Act will have to be amended for this).