Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has played an instrumental role in reviewing and amending the previous Apprenticeship Act in India. In this Skill Talk, Sougata Roy Choudhury, Senior Director and Head, Skill Development, IR &AA, CII , tells us about how apprenticeships can transform the skilling landscape with systematic adoption by the industry and the enormity of challenges in promoting apprenticeships. Let’s read on as he explains various nuances related to National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) and related aspects of work-integrated training for youth in India.
When we realised that there were a lot of challenges and limitations in the previous Apprenticeship Act and the industry was not able to really engage itself in it, CII became the main force or the early mover for the amendments in the Apprenticeship Act. We conducted a nation-wide consultation by floating a questionnaire to all the members. We took the feedback and drafted all the observations and noted down the amendments recommended by the industry. We submitted these recommendations to the government i.e, the Ministry of Labour and Employment. We had received over 180 responses, from both large industries and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
We put this forward and it was a challenge to get the act amended. The new government took proactive steps in amending the Act in the year 2014. The onus was then on us and the industry to ensure that the amendments are rightly communicated and used for engaging and scaling up apprenticeships. As per law, any establishment with certain manpower, has to engage 2.5% to 10% of their workforce as apprentices.
Challenges and lack of awareness about apprenticeships
One of the main challenges was lack of information on both sides, i.e, the Industry and State Labour Offices. As the subject of Labour is a state law and it comes under the state government jurisdiction, it needs to be taken up at the state level. We have labour officers, who visit factories and large industrial establishments. The awareness should start with them that the Apprentices Act has been amended and the changes have done away with clauses that penalise the industry. If these officers are aware, they will allow the industry to positively engage as well.
Thus, we started workshops in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Employment and later with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) which included Directorate General of Training (DGT). We wanted people to notice the changes that were made. There are two major factors that we wanted to highlight: 1. Apprenticeships should permeate through industry officials who are recruiting the apprentices 2. Need to make them aware of the new sectors which have been opened up through the amendments such as the Services Sector.
If industry is interested but does not know how to go about engaging apprentices, CII can assist them. They can tell us about their workforce, including contractual workforce, and what percentage of the workforce they need as apprentices (the range is from 2.5% to 10%) etc, and CII will give them a solution as per the geographic location and the industry sector, thus linking them to the talent.
Assisting MSMEs to onboard apprentices and career-counselling through Model Career Centers
There was another issue for the industry for not being able to engage and absorb more apprentices. Largely, India comprises of 80% of MSMEs who are mostly focused on business operations with little time for documentation, online registration etc. The challenge is to help them in engaging apprentices. CII wanted to give a 360 degree solution to this segment of the industry. To enable this, we are partnering with LabourNet Services to provide handholding for completion of the process.
CII has been collaborating with the Ministry of Labour of Employment (MOLE), Government of India, on Career Counselling of youth in Colleges, ITIs, Polytechnics etc. In partnership with the MOLE, have set up four Model Career Centers at Gurgaon, Mumbai, Chennai and Bareilly respectively. We career-counsel students; if they are found employable, we lead them to employment, or if they are in need of technical or soft skills, we link them to training and then employment opportunities
We have been able to impact over 110000 students through career-counselling and 45000 youth into employment within a short period of 14 months. Through this, we are also facilitating the youth to get into the apprenticeship program, in addition to guiding them to job opportunities. The objective is to facilitate the industry to give them practical training and create a talent pool for their own requirements so that they can pick up their prospective employees from the talent pool.
We reached out to All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and it was under AICTE that the National Employability Enhancement Mission (NEEM) scheme of internship was started. This was a step towards ensuring that there is a pathway for these youngsters coming out of colleges and institutions to get hands-on knowledge through industry internships.
Role of the Center and States in implementing apprenticeships
We work closely with the states, and many states are aware of the amendments and are onboarding apprentices. Though there are practical challenges, the state governments have realised that they need to work with the youth and engage with them proactively. If we can share the stories of how few states have been actively involved, the other states get motivated as well. Top-level state government officials are very keen. We need to organise more webinars for all the state governments to interact, and also there should be interaction at the state level with the industries through webinars. Various issues could be brought to the table through these webinars. State government officials could interact with CEOs and HR Heads of the industry or the one who are in charge of the apprentices.
Need for pre-apprenticeship counselling
The main challenge is to mobilise the youth and convince them to join the apprenticeship program. The youth may not take up the offers made by the industry after the apprenticeship. So, there is a need for pre-apprenticeship counselling of the youth to give them an understanding of the career path and options. The candidates can explore the trade, and take up employment with the industry after the apprenticeship. He/she can join the industry as a trainee/apprentice for six months to one year, after which he/she can move up in the industry. Apprenticeship should be accepted by the youth as last mile industry-led training and employability. We need to make the ecosystem work!
We are working closely with all the stakeholders – primarily, the government and the industry. Our recent workshop “Leveraging and Engaging Skills Ecosystem for the Industry” was completely focused on making the industry aware of the steps the government has taken and how industry can use NAPS (National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme) to create an industry-ready talent pool.