Awareness is the key to accepting and adopting Apprenticeships as proven strategy for capacity building

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Apprenticeship is yet to get accepted by the Indian youth as the best way to learn, earn and grow. Industry is in the process of getting acquainted with the amendments to the previous regime and benefits of National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS). The need for creating awareness about apprenticeships is on top of the agenda for the government. In this backdrop we present a Skill Talk with Sandeep Kosaraju, General Manager at Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) to know more about his experience of being a part of the Apprenticeship Policy team as a Young Professional at the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE). Let’s learn more… 

Q: Please share your experience of working on NAPS and tell us about certain milestones, key decisions, and the reasons behind them, to overcome the shortcomings of previous Apprenticeship 1961 Act etc.

A: As a Young Professional in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), I got an opportunity to work first hand on the Apprenticeship Policy from 2016 under the guidance of Joint Secretary – Mr. Asheesh Sharma. Having worked on strengthening of ITI ecosystem in the country and also conceptualizing short-term training programs, I was positioned uniquely to understand the Apprenticeship system better. I believe 2014 is the critical milestone in terms of the following:

  1. The year 2014 saw the birth of a new ministry – MSDE. This meant the subject of apprenticeship which was traditionally over seen by the much regulated Labour Ministry will now be managed by the new age organization – MSDE.
  2. This was also the year when comprehensive amendments to the Act in terms of introduction of optional trades (industry can design its own course/ trade) and the scope has been extended to non-engineering pass outs also. This also meant greater deregulation.

Q: How do we address the challenge of promoting apprenticeships to all – the industry, the students, training partners and the academia, most importantly MSMEs – how can we arrive at a long term strategy?

A: In 2016, we saw for the first time, the industry was being incentivized for engaging apprentices under National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS). The new policy is much friendlier compared to its previous version. The challenge of apprenticeship should be handled in two ways. There is a lot of legacy behind the scheme and Industry has to come out of the fear of being regulated if registered for apprenticeship. Therefore, first, industry has to be sensitized about the reforms and the benefits under NAPS. Second, there are negative perceptions among the youth for apprenticeship. There needs to be an exhaustive campaign inspiring the youth to undertake apprenticeship.

Q: Creating awareness about skill-based trades among Engineering students – can we divert their interest towards different jobs and show a path towards earning-while-learning through NAPS?

 A: First, it is important to understand that Apprenticeship is no longer restricted to Manufacturing sector and ITIs. The involvement of universities, education boards, employers in the apprenticeship ecosystem has been negligible. The candidates from engineering or any other degree can now be engaged as apprentices. Given the very low employability skills among the engineering graduates, I believe apprenticeship is the route through which they can be given hands-on skilling and improve the employability skills. For the first time, whilst I was working with the Ministry, I have even conceptualized something called “Academic Apprenticeships” based on U.K system which received a lot of traction from the Government.

Apprenticeships for capacity building

Q: Can you explain the concept of “Academic Apprenticeships”?

A: Today, apprenticeship is seen only as a top up option. This is also availed mainly by ITI candidates. Apprenticeship has to emerge as a viable career option where students can look at apprenticeship as an alternative route for attaining academic qualifications. Academic Apprenticeships are alternative education routes which would involve combining an apprenticeship component with a formal education program. These programs can be developed by universities, education boards along with the employers leading to higher academic qualifications of the same standard as those taken via a full-time undergraduate or master’s route. In Europe, employers such as Rolls-Royce, Network Rail, Airbus, Accenture, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks, BBC, KPMG – in partnership with universities offer degree apprenticeships in fields like engineering, law, banking, accountancy, technology and many more.

Q: Let’s look at the informal sector and NAPS, how do we bring the informal employees into this scheme through their employers?

A: Informal Sector engages apprentices predominantly, but is a highly self regulating system, often verbal agreements wherein the Master (often referred as Ustad/ Mestri) transfers skills to a young person (often referred as helper). Informal sector is infact a huge challenge for the economy because of its very nature. It needs holistic policy support in terms of capacity building measures for local industrial associations, MSMEs, career guidance/ counseling sessions, introducing contracts between Master and apprentice, scaling up Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) initiatives. But all this needs a sound registry system or what we call a Labor Market Information System (LMIS). I think the pace at which we are still implementing the formal apprenticeship system, informal is a distant dream!

Andhra Pradesh has been a pioneer in implementing Apprenticeships. APSSDC has already formed an apprenticeship cell for the implementation. I believe the policy experts have put enough efforts in streamlining the ecosystem by involving the National Industrial Associations. By focusing on a micro-level approach APPSDC would involve local geographical associations to a large extent. We are also in talks with International agencies like GIZ (Germany) to help build the capacity at the industrial associations.

Q: Are the incentives enough to attract the industry and students? Recently, we came across a view that even the trainers need monetary incentives.

A: We should understand that apprenticeship should primarily be driven by the industry. It’s the norm everywhere. The incentives under NAPS should not be seen as major financial contribution but a support mechanism from the government to engage with the industry and encourage apprenticeships. The 25% rebate under NAPS along with exemption from paying ESI, PF, other statutory obligations would account for 50%-60% cost savings for the industry compared to engaging a contractual worker. The government cannot become a complete welfare state. The industry has to own the scheme.

Q: NAPS and other Apprenticeship schemes – can’t we bring them all under one umbrella? Now it looks like things are running parallel.

A: There is lot of confusion on the ground between NAPS and NATS (under MHRD). The President of United States recently issued an executive order establishing “President’s national Council for the American Workforce.” at the core of which is apprenticeship, such is the curiosity on apprenticeship worldwide. There needs to be a National Institution in place to fast track the implementation of apprenticeship. I believe since NAPS has got a huge budget layout, all the schemes should be merged with NAPS.

Q: How has it helped after NSDC came into the picture? Are Training Partners able to facilitate apprenticeship adoption?

A: India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the recent growth has been driven primarily by services sector which now contributes over 50% of the GDP. Apprenticeship system has not been utilized in services like IT and ITeS, Logistics, Retail, Banking and Finance etc. In order to utilize the apprenticeship option in services sector, we looked out for courses in the services sector which could create possible pathways for apprenticeship and the answer was short-term training under NSDC and other State Skill Development Missions. The last policy which I have worked with the MSDE was to integrate the short term training with apprenticeship. Having said that, there is still lot of confusion in the states to implement the same. After I have joined Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation as General Manager, we have organized a huge apprenticeship summit in Visakhapatnam with the support and encouragement of our MD & CEO. The event saw a footfall of around 700 industries and Joint Secretary, MSDE was our special guest.

Q: The Apprenticeship Summit was fist of its kind in the entire country and was also rightly acknowledged by JS – MSDE. How were you able to achieve such a feat?

A: We were able to prepare for the event in less than a month. The key here is that we had taken a micro approach. We believe the true potential is with the local industrial associations and we were very fortunate to having received such a tremendous response. In fact, I am very proud of the event because this is something I wanted to always do at Government of India and glad that MD & CEO of APSSDC had given me the right direction to implement the same. The event has even received traction from international agencies.

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