In its previous tenure, the government aimed to reach 50 lakh apprentices in 5 years, for which it amended the Apprentices Act and made it conducive for employers to engage apprentices.
By Sumit Kumar
The government has passed the Bill to merge 13 central labour laws into a single code. While the government has been working on improving ‘compliance’ and ‘infrastructure’, but on the ‘employability’ front it’s still work in progress.
The government is making efforts to consolidate 44 labour laws into five labour codes around wages, social security, industrial safety and welfare, and industrial relations. GST was a big reform in the taxation system to simplify and facilitate business. Apprenticeship ecosystem, too, needs to be simplified; it needs to connect the dots to scale apprentices in the country. ‘People’, an important part of development, is still work in progress. There is a skill deficit of 12.5 crore people—only 40% employers are able to fulfil their talent needs. Yet only 4% of labour force has been developed through structured training; apprentices account for 0.1% in Indian labour force. These figures reflect lack of participation of employers, academia and youth. Apprenticeship is the best way to skill people as it entails work-based learning.
Only about 50,000 employers engage with apprenticeships, against 7.1 crore enterprises in India. In its previous tenure, the government aimed to reach 50 lakh apprentices in 5 years, for which it amended the Apprentices Act and made it conducive for employers to engage apprentices. But the mark didn’t cross 5 lakh. There are three reasons for this: lack of awareness and understanding of the regulatory system, confusion amongst employers with respect to jurisdiction of multiple schemes, and the disconnect between training and higher education. While the Apprentices Act, 1961, gets executed by the MSDE and by MHRD, there are also departments like the Board of Apprenticeship Training and the Regional Directorate of Apprenticeship Training that look into apprenticeship. Further, every state has a skill mission that mostly resides with the ministry of labour. Also, there are schemes like the National Employability Enhancement Scheme (NEEM) that are recognised by the government but are not part of the Apprentices Act. All of this leaves employers with a lack of clarity. Apart from a conducive regulatory framework, improving the apprenticeship landscape needs simplification of system and an integrated approach.
– Consolidation of employability schemes under the Act: There are about 3 lakh trainees who are receiving training through various work-based learning programmes. While they conform to the purpose of apprenticeship, they are not recognised under the Act. If all these programmes get acknowledged under the Act, it will eliminate confusion amongst employers and can drive better adoption.
– PPP for for achieving scale with governance: The NEEM, under MHRD, is an excellent example that has a third-party involved in execution and management, especially governance. That’s the reason it has scaled up to 3 lakh trainees in a span of 5 years. Although third-party aggregator (TPA) rules have been laid out under the Act, they restrict the role of the private partner to a training partner instead of end-to-end execution of apprenticeship programmes. Empowering the TPA and granting authority for end-to-end execution of apprenticeship—from registration process to designing curriculum along with employer, execution of training, monitoring the progress and certification through a private training partner—will be convenient for employers. The government can ensure governance by defining clear-cut guidelines and making TPA accountable.
– Integrating apprenticeships with higher education: Degree apprenticeships are gaining popularity in Europe as these offer qualification and build capabilities. Apprenticeships in India need close engagement between academia and employers. The Department of Higher Education should link degree with apprenticeships. As digital learning is gaining momentum, classroom learning under apprenticeship should be allowed through online/digital platforms. This will make apprenticeships the preferred choice of the youth.
Developed economies have a 3-4% participation of apprentices in the labour market. We need a lot of ground to achieve that scale. While India has a well -regulated apprenticeship system, the new government needs to add these catalysts to scale apprenticeships.
(The author is vice-president, TeamLease Skills University. Viers are personal.)