India has always had a history of 'underutilized apprenticeship'. There has been an attempt to fix it since 1975, but it has never really got the kind of attention it required. However, in the last few years since the last amendment of the Apprenticeship Act, there have been a few notable changes in the world of apprenticeship in India. In recent times, even the pandemic has not dampened the employers' sentiments. There is a 33% net positive outlook for apprentice hiring with 46% of employers still having the intent to engage with the apprenticeship.
The latest episode of Apprenticeship Dialogues - The Webinar Series started off stating the aim of conducting these webinar series.
- to create awareness both amongst the youth as well as corporate India about the different possibilities of apprenticeships
- to educate on how apprenticeship adds value to businesses, as well as today's youth,
- to showcase how apprenticeship is changing the diversity equations in the country.
The webinar comprised panelists Harjeet Khanduja, Vice President Human Resources, Reliance Jio, Sitaram Kandi, Vice President Human Resources, Large Automotive organization, and Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder - EVP, TeamLease Services Limited, who also moderated the session. The speakers and the moderator shared their valuable insights during the webinar on ‘Emerging Trends in Apprenticeship,’ on 14th of May 2021.
Apprenticeship: Changes over the years
2014 saw a few reforms and amendments around the apprenticeship system in India. When Rituparna asked Harjeet about whether he has seen any changes after this recent amendment, Harjeet raised a counter-question “Apprenticeship doesn't work just by the government, right?” The government is making policy so the government has done its bit now. “Government, Employers, society - we need to do more on all the three fronts” - This awareness is missing, which is very crucial to compete in a global economy, added Harjeet.
Sitaram however had a slightly different view on the topic- “perspectives should change”. Apprenticeship should be accepted as something that helps people to cross the bridge from unemployment to employment, from campus to industry, rather than looking at as an alternative for not having a job. “I think on the system side a lot of changes have happened, but on the mindset, and the acceptance side, a lot of work is to be done,” said Sitaram.
Challenges in Apprenticeship
If an apprentice thinks that ‘apprenticeship is a compromise, I am taking this because there is nothing else – “that is scary,” said Harjeet. “The willingness to learn/willingness to do the job and learnability are the only two things that matter", the rest can be learned from the employers, he added.
Sitaram says, “in whichever Institute I go to, I ask a question to the Principal and the faculty. You're producing a student to work in an industry, how many times have you visited an industry?” He further said that going on an industrial visit for half an hour sitting in a conference room is not "industrial knowledge". He stressed on the point that practical exposure is lacking in today’s students.
Gender Neutral Hiring in Apprenticeship
It is observed that 40-43% of the employers still prefer to hire male apprentices, about 25-26% prefer women, and the rest are neutral. Harjeet said that this is a mindset issue, and we have typecasted apprenticeship as a man’s job. India is at the 121st position when it comes to the female labor force. “We are that bad, we need to improve as a society” he added.
Sitaram's thoughts were on similar lines. He said that they always prefer a 50:50 gender ratio when it comes to apprentice hiring. He also believes that both men and women have to be put through equally challenging jobs without any stereotyping. He was also very confident enough to say that today, they have 700 women working in all the shifts. It should also noted that 38% of all graduate apprentices in India are women.
Technology v/s Apprenticeship
Technology is transforming apprenticeships. Earlier apprenticeship used to be equated with the manufacturing sector, and now things have drastically changed. More job opportunities are getting created and now you have the flexibility to provide services from anywhere you are comfortable. “There is a huge opportunity for digitization and simplification,” added Sitaram. He also talked about the implementation of an aggregating platform portal, which essentially brings together all stakeholders, the youth, the corporates, the third-party providers, and so on.
What is a Degree Apprenticeship?
A degree apprenticeship is something like a conventional apprenticeship itself. Earlier the apprenticeship used to be trade-based, whereas, now, with the degree apprenticeship in place, apprentices have an opportunity to augment their education while continuing to work.
Apprenticeship for Creating Talent Pool
“I think it's something to do with the organization's capability to train them,” said Sitaram while talking about creating a talent pool for the organization. “Anybody joining me should be employable after a year - this should be my responsibility”. Organizations should put apprentices on rigorous training, they should be associated with projects, which will add value to them. Organizations should look at apprenticeships as a means to building their pipeline, building talents, and of course, building careers.
As a piece of advice to apprentices/ aspiring apprentices, Sitaram says, “Get into an industry, ask questions, reach out to anyone, nobody would say NO because you are a fresher. Instead of saying ‘I’m an apprentice, I don’t have experience, be proud to proclaim that ‘I’m an apprentice, I’m learning." After all, it's all about perspectives!
NETAP recently launched a report called the Stipend Primer Report 2020 that brings out some very useful data on employer organizations’ approach to apprentice compensation.