Apprentices are an increasing tribe. Here are some statistics supporting it. In the financial year ending March 2019, nearly 40,000 trainees were engaged by the Board of Apprenticeship Training (Western Region). For the same period, the number for the Southern Region was — 45,881.
Though these numbers signify a spike in the interest being shown to train apprentices, they are nowhere near the ideal number, yet. Considering the size of the Indian economy, it is a minuscule figure still.
The changes that the Central Government effected to The Apprenticeship (Amendment) Rules, 2019, in September, augurs well for this segment though. Notable changes include increasing the percentage of apprentices to 15% of the total strength of an organisation.
Previously, this ranged between 2.5% and 10%. The minimum stipend amount has almost doubled. It has also lowered the size-limit of an establishment to engage apprentices on an optional basis, from 40 to 30 employees.
C.R. Swaminathan, former CEO, PSG Industrial Institute and former chairman of the Board of Apprenticeship Training (BOAT) for Southern India says the success of the apprenticeship system has to be gauged from how many apprentices finally enter the formal workforce. Jobs must follow skill training, he says.
“Last year, BOAT (SR) did a survey which showed that at least 40% of the candidates are being absorbed by some industry after the training period,” says Swaminathan.
While admitting that this is a good number, he says a lot more has to be done to increase the percentage. Towards this end, the industry and the various groups associated with it should work closely together.
Swaminathan says that every year BOAT (SR) sends a questionnaire to industries asking for their manpower requirement but the response is always poor. “Even public service undertakings do not respond,” he says.
Studies have shown that finding school dropouts, diploma holders and graduates will not be a concern if the stipend is good and there is career scope.
The overall picture is however positive. National Employability Through Apprenticeship Program (NETAP) — driven by TeamLease Skills University, Confederation of Indian Industry and National Skill Development Corporation — proposes to appoint two lakh apprentices every year, over the next 10 years.
Sumit Kumar, vice president, NETAP, TeamLease Skills University says supply of manpower is not an issue. In the last four years, NETAP has boarded nearly 1.5 lakh candidates across 29 states. “Out of them, around 92% of the candidates are formally employed, drawing compensation at 45% wage premium to the stipend,” says Kumar.
“38% of these trainees who got jobs have been placed in the same organisation that they went to train at,” he says. More than 500 employers across industries are currently associated with NETAP for their hiring needs. Studies have shown that it’s not just the manufacturing sector that is keen on hiring apprentices.
“The services sector has started showing keen interest,” says Kumar. “The IT sector, which is one of the largest employers, also must come forward.”