“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long-run it is almost everything,” said Paul Krugman in his book ‘The Age of Diminished Expectations’. We make the case that an increase in apprentices in the country will lead to productivity boost by more effective learning with linkages across the economy which would bolster economic growth. We predict that 10 million apprentices in 10 years as a start is an achievable model if all the stakeholders make an effort towards improving the apprenticeship infrastructure in the country.
Our whitepaper on the ROI of apprenticeships shows there is a recuperation of costs associated with apprentices within the apprenticeship period for most companies along with a positive ROI if the apprentice is retained which means that these programs benefit the employers as well as employees and the economy as a whole. Apprenticeships also allowed the businesses surveyed to secure a supply of people with the skills and qualities that the company required and which were often not available in the external job market, secure a supply of skilled young recruits, which was especially important for the replacement of an ageing workforce and were less expensive to recruit and train than experienced workers hired from the external labour market because of high recruitment costs plus the costs of induction and any necessary training among various other advantages.
We have listed five advantages of having apprenticeships as a part of the learning system to enable increased productivity:
Earning while learning: When it comes to advantages for youth, apprenticeships are a way to connect young people to potential employers. Youth from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds face pressure to earn as they learn. Apprenticeships can help address this need.
Learning while doing: Apprenticeship enabled on-the-job training not only serves a practical purpose but also establishes a real-time feedback loop between employers and potential hires. This ensures that youth are skilled in tasks and techniques that are in demand.
Learning with flexibility: Forces like technology and the pandemic are disrupting labour markets. This means that youth need flexibility in when, where, and how they access training. Allowing for different methods of skills acquisition through on-campus, on-site, online, and on-the-job training allows for flexibility in a constantly changing labour market.
Learning with modularity: In addition to disrupting labour markets, these major forces are also altering education and skill requirements. This means that the incidence of ‘employed-learners’ will rise. Individuals will need to enter and re-enter the education and skills ecosystems to reskill and upskill themselves constantly. Organising training in modules that allows for lateral entry and multiple entries and exits will enable this.
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Learning with signalling value: Finally, supplementing classroom education with on-the-job experience provides important signalling value to employers that the person is job-ready and that s/he is attuned to professional life. Moreover, when vocational education degrees translate into jobs through apprenticeship linkages, this will help counter the commonly bias that favours academia and cognitive occupations over vocational education and manual occupations.
All these, in turn, will improve the overall productivity of the economy as these apprentices will get absorbed in the workforce and have higher productivity levels and industry ready skills.
The author is co-founder and executive director, TeamLease Services.