Since it was first implemented in 1961, the National Apprenticeship Scheme has seen several iterations to accommodate to meet the expectations of employers and job seekers. However, the apprenticeship system is extremely underutilised in India with formal apprentices being just 0.01% of the total labour force. In countries such as Germany, apprentices comprise 2.7% of the workforce. In the U.K., 200,000 employers rely on apprenticeship to recruit their workforce; the corresponding number in India is 35,000. But, with the National Education Policy 2020, the focus is slowly being moved to include tangible skill development within formal learning to promote employability.
The 70-20-10 formula
Gandhiji had always been in favour of the concept of education as an enabler in promoting livelihood. His concept of ‘Nai Talim’ was based on the principle that knowledge and work have to go hand-in-hand. The 70-20-10 model of learning and skill development refers to 70% on-the-job experience and learning; 20% from feedback and interaction with peers, and only about 10% from traditional education. Apprenticeship has witnessed the success of the 70-20-10 model as it is tailored to the needs of the youth and is also focused on transforming the quality and productivity of the workforce.
Employer participation not only creates the necessary links between higher education and job readiness but also enables students to earn while they complete their courses, thereby ensuring that higher education reaches more people. This is an efficient way for companies to reap proper returns when they train and upskill their employees in relevant fields. Developed economies across the world have been leveraging apprenticeship programmes, as the benefit-to-cost ratio during the apprenticeship period is driven primarily by four factors: productivity gains, completion rates, absorption rates, and lower recruitment costs.
An effective mechanism to reap the benefits of demographic dividend is the massification of degree apprenticeships. Degree programmes, offering apprenticeship opportunities, will help students finance their higher education while taking academic courses. This not only helps them develop suitable skills but also offers work experience while they are still studying. Combined with other benefits, this will make students job ready sooner than the traditional degree programmes. A model where an employer extends a stipend to an apprentice also generates strong incentives to pursue higher education.
Apprenticeship has generally been considered to be an alternative route to hiring manpower for the manufacturing sector. However, programmes span different sectors including Healthcare, eCommerce, IT/ITeS Services, Logistics, Retail, Financial Services, and more. Enrolling raw talent and converting them into full-fledged employees is gaining popularity. After completing training, apprentices are accustomed to the environment and show growth, which enables companies to reap the benefits of high retention and lower attrition rates.
There have been several successful apprenticeship programmes that translated into high productivity for the companies, which balanced the costs incurred in training and paying stipends. As employers across various industry verticals brace for an impending skill shortage and struggle to retain talent, the time has come to drop traditional mindsets and adopt apprenticeship programmes, which will offer significant benefits in terms of reduced people supply chain costs, lower attrition, and higher productivity.
The writer is co-founder and executive director, TeamLease.