Despite the fact that the Apprenticeship Act came into being in 1961, the number of companies that have leveraged apprenticeships have been very few in the larger context. However, the winds of change are blowing. The last 7 years have been witness to the resurrection of apprentices’ pan India.
The 1961 Act has undergone several amendments including the one in 2019, which aim to further encourage the industry and youth to profit from apprenticeship. Here are a few highlights:
- Employers will now be able to engage up to 15% of its workforce as apprentices.
- Along with this, the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) has received Rs.10,000 crores as subsidy to employers in order to promote apprenticeship among organizations.
- A hike in apprentice stipend for school pass-outs as well as graduates will motivate the youth further to become a skilled workforce.
Currently less than 3% of Indian companies have shown keen interest in hiring apprentices, hence the government hopes to achieve a higher percentage through these periodic changes to the act.
While the concept was still new a few years ago, the sharp eyes of HRs and talent acquisition officers to garner possible advantages for their respective organizations have taken to apprenticeship very quickly. Seen earlier as the preserve of manufacturing, apprenticeship has shown its utility across sectors such as automotive, retail, financial services, logistics, hospitality and healthcare. The real challenge however lies in amplifying the awareness amongst millions of organizations across the country.
Rising through the ranks as an apprentice
The time has now come for India to pick up its pace with apprenticeship, UK had reported to already have peaked at an astonishing 86% of apprentice hire in 2017. Our disappointing 30% is stopping us from creating an integrated workforce solution to maximise the growth of our economy. Even Werner Eikenbusch, Head of Work Force Development, BMW has vouched for the success of apprenticeship with BMW’s own apprenticeship program that trains workers to rise through the ranks without a 4-year degree.
The Indian apprentice
The main benefits organizations seek by hiring apprentices is to close skill gaps with higher productivity and a lower cost.
The growth of apprenticeship in India vary by many factors, the major one being the economic status of the nation. Another factor, is the education level of the apprentice and the preference, surprisingly, is given to school pass-outs over graduates. Finally, the western parts followed by the northern parts have shown a better inclination towards apprentice hire in India.
How COVID has affected the acceptance of apprentices in India
After the economic downfall since the pandemic, organizations have been struggling to get back on their feet. SMEs especially have been incapable of investing in recruitment, learning and development etc., Apprenticeship with its clear benefits might just become the key to economic revival for businesses.
Mr. Ranganath NK, Grundfos Water Ambassador, Grundfos Pumps India Private Ltd, in a webinar interaction with NETAP shed light on some of the consequences of the pandemic that subsequently benefitted the acceptance of apprentices. The pandemic caused a severe shortfall of manpower due to the movement of migrant labourers and forced organizations to sustain with a smaller workforce. This brought on the realization of the requirement of skilled and trained employees like apprentices. At large organizations, apprenticeship is a source of a large skilled workforce at a very low cost with or without the pressures of the pandemic.
Commitment of apprentices
After two years of hiring apprentices, Ms. Ritu Bhatia, VP HR, Genpact India, shares her insights on what she finds most impactful about the experience. According to her, apprentice hiring is all about investing in fresh talent with impressionable minds, who recognize the investment made for their careers. “This in turn gives them a sense of personal commitment towards the success of that particular organization. The whole system of apprenticeship concludes as a mutually beneficial system to empower the youth and to expand organizations”, she says.
Filling the skill gap with apprentices
Mr. Pradeep Bhosekar, L&D Head, Godrej has had a long standing relationship with apprenticeship programs. He began working with apprenticeship programs all the way back in 2014. According to him, besides fulfilling specific roles in the organization, apprentices had one particular advantage, which was keeping up with the sophistication and complexity of the machinery over the years. This has solidified his belief in apprenticeship and he currently hosts a large number of apprentices at many locations within his organization.
Employee retention and ROI
On analysis of apprenticeship hiring and is outcome, Mr. Prabhakar Patil, VP, Reliance Retail feels that the employee retention of apprentices is much higher than that of a regular hire. Apprenticeship also reduces the complexity of the hiring process for the organization. One of his personal observations was the quality of work of apprentices which he thinks is owed to their eagerness to learn and positive attitude.
It is definitely time for apprenticeship to be the new norm of company hiring. It is an efficient and profitable method to expand and grow businesses. With its help India will be able to overcome the enormous skill deficit facing millions of organizations, while increasing youth employability.