Careers

From apprentice to B.Tech graduate

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A locomotive manufacturer trains and hires local talent for its factory in a remote area

Every Sunday, 40 employees from this diesel electric locomotive plant in Marhowra, a remote town in Bihar, return to the ‘classroom’ for a B.Tech course in manufacturing. Thanks to a memorandum of understanding that their employer, GE Transportation, a Wabtec Company, signed with BITS Pilani, in the next couple of years they would not just have a degree but be leading significant roles in the company.

What is interesting in the journey of these employees is that they are all diploma holders who joined the company on an apprenticeship programme, and were later brought to the rolls; and now, they are part of a fully-paid engineering programme.

In 2015, when GE Transportation and the Indian Railways came up with a joint venture model to produce 1,000 Diesel Electric locomotives, the former had many challenges to overcome, the foremost among them being finding the talent required to work in a remote place — the factory in Marhowra is a three-hour drive from Patna.

The company adopted the “recruit-train-deploy” model to find talent.

“We went to more than 20 diploma colleges in Bihar, Uttar Pradhesh, Jharkhand and Orissa to scout for people who were willing to work in the factory, and hired 200 diploma holders for the position of graduate engineer trainees,” says Sajid Iqbal, HR director, APAC, GE Transportation.

“We spent one year training them.”

It was a mix of classroom and on-the-job training.

“We co-created the curriculum with Tool Room and Training Centre, Patna, an institute under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises,” says Iqbal, who worked on the talent strategy. The company brought in-house experts on board to supervise the curriculum as per their needs.

“Last year, we deployed all of them as Junior Engineers,” says Iqbal, adding that the company is heavily invested in the recruit-train-deploy model. Since the first batch has joined the rolls, they have taken another 50 in a similar fashion.

Candidates are shortlisted from local diploma colleges based on a selection process that includes an online test and an interview.

“Nearly 25% of the workforce at our plant are women who work across levels, and we are glad 45-50 are technicians that we trained,” says Iqbal. For GE Transportation, the model worked for many reasons.

“We noticed that youngsters are fast learners and also keen on staying on as long as they see growth,” he says. The company also provided accommodation close to the factory. “There is no bond period for these employees. We look at apprentices as our future technicians,” he adds. The factory currently has 600-700 people and as it keeps growing they are confident that some of these shop-floor employees will be ready to take up bigger roles.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 1:23:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/careers/from-apprentice-to-btech-graduate/article30160311.ece

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