Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government wants profitable public sector units (PSUs) to effect a significant increase in the number of apprentices they train as it seeks to expand the country’s skilled workforce. He launched the Skill India Mission last year to build vocational and technical training frameworks to bridge a wide gap between demand for and supply of skilled manpower.
All profitable public sector undertakings run by the central government (CPSUs) have now been asked to ensure the number of apprentices they have is equal to at least 2.5% of their total workforce. “Now establishments are required to engage numbers of apprentices equivalent to a minimum of 2.5% and a maximum of 10% of the total workforce, including contractual workforce,” skill development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy said in a letter to aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju.
The requirement was among the changes to the Apprentices Act in 2014. The letter has been written to all ministries that oversee profitable government-owned companies. There are about 50-60 such companies, including the Airports Authority of India and Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd, which are run by the aviation ministry. The new thrust to the Skill India Mission comes ahead of the second anniversary of the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government next week.
The aviation ministry has 25,044 employees under its profitable public sector units, but only 95 apprentices, the letter noted. “If all CPSUs under your ministry engage 10% of total manpower strength as apprentices, this would significantly increase the number of apprentices trained. This in turn will help in achieving the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision and mission of Skills India,” Rudy wrote. He added “I request your kind personal intervention to ensure the engagement of apprentices to the maximum of 10% of the total strength including contractual workers in all CPSUs under your ministry,”.
Raju has since asked his ministry to make immediate presentations on the subject and take the next steps.
In terms of training workers, India lags behind neighbouring China.
China has 30 million apprentices in industrial units; India has just 200,000, said Rohit Nandan, secretary, ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship. “This is about genuine skilling… on-the-job skilling is the most genuine skilling,” Nandan said. “It goes beyond classroom teaching.” India will require nearly 120 million more workers by 2022, and equipping them with the skills required by various industries would be crucial to reaping the economic benefits of India’s young demographic. More than 90% of these workers will be needed in 10 sectors, led by retail and construction and real estate.
To achieve such targets, India changed the Apprentices Act of 1961, with effect from 22 December 2014, to make it more attractive to both young job market entrants and corporations, after which Prime Minister Modi announced his Skill India mission last year. The training has been expanded to include the services sector; industries can outsource basic training. Graduates and diploma holders from non-engineering streams have also been added to the programme.
“Apprenticeships have been one of India’s most underutilized weapons in the war for employability,” said Manish Sabharwal, chairman of TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd, which provides HR services to firms. “Getting all employers including PSUs to raise the number of apprentices is a great idea as long as everybody voluntarily adopts the programme in enlightened long-term self-interest; we don’t want to revert to the failed regulatory fatwas of the 1961 version of the Apprentices Act.”
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