The ambitious integrated skill development scheme introduced by the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) to address the shortage of talent in the industry will be extended to seven more centres in the State in the next few months. The centres are: Kancheepuram, Salem, Karur, Madurai, Coimbatore, Sankaran Koil and Aruppukottai.

For this purpose, the Apparel Training Development Centre (ATDC) conducts the Skills for Manufacturing of Apparel through Research and Training (SMART) programme. In October 2010, it started the programme in seven centres, including two in Chennai.

“Industry is not ready to wait for one to two years to get talent. Plus, there is a requirement of nearly a lakh people for floor-evel jobs in the industry. The SMART programme addresses all these issues by offering training as well as providing compulsory placement,” said T.C. Balasubramanian, joint registrar and principal, ATDC, who is also the project head of ATDS-SMART. “Nearly 600 people have so far enrolled in SMART classes.”

An eligibility of pass in class V, course duration ranging between 45 days to five months, stipend and assured placement are some of the reasons that faculty members say make the programme promising. But, like most skill development programmes, finding candidates is not easy.

The Centre has different tie-ups to mobilise candidates, including coordinating with self-help groups and non-governmental organisations and training persons sent by the cluster members and offering classes at their premises. “We also have a tie-up with Triumph International where they send us people and we train them at our Centre. The company, for instance, wants 1,000 floor-level people in the next one year,” Mr. Balasubramanian said.

The AEPC has about 1,500 active apparel makers in the State as members, and floor-level jobs such as sewing machine operator, industrial sewing technicians, checkers, finishers, packers, supervisors, pattern makers and helpers are needed by export companies.

“Speed and quality are the main emphasis of the programme. For example, students have to master to attach a pocket in 45 seconds or stitch the components of a shirt,” said S. Kalavathi, instructor, SMART. She adds one would start with a salary of Rs.5,000 and depending on how challenging the work is, more pay would be given.

Apparel industry is the largest employment provider in the country after agriculture. The sector is estimated to employ over seven million workers directly and 25 million indirectly out of which 50 per cent are in the export sector.

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