What apprenticeship is all about
Getting your hands dirty is not really bad, especially if you understand better what apprenticeship is all about and how it could bridge the employability gap in India and significantly improve higher education outcomes for the country.
Apprenticeship can be defined as a learning pathway where individuals are trained for a specific occupation by an employer in a real workplace. Learners may receive a certain wage during the training period, at the end of which they are equipped with the necessary skills and competencies required in their chosen trade or craft.
Historically, master craftsmen belonging to craft guilds would recruit young people to train them for a period that lasted up to seven years. Over time, apprenticeship became a way of training the next generation in a particular trade or profession.
In modern times, an apprenticeship is regulated by law and encompasses a wide range of professions. It is a powerful learning model which is responsive to industry needs since it matches skills with the demands of the workplace. Apprenticeship is prevalent in many fields- from architecture to law and medicine. Modern apprenticeships are not about just imparting manufacturing and technical skills. They have progressed to become applicable in a wide range of professions in the modern economy.
There is an employability skills gap in India and we need a novel method of educating and training its youth and improving the employability of Indian graduates so that they can make gainful contribution to its growing economy.
Why Apprenticeship in Higher Education
The Indian higher education system contributes 2.5 million university graduates annually to the workforce, out of which a large number of graduates remain unemployed. Apprenticeship in India can play a crucial role in skilling the youth, improving employability of Indian graduates and providing them opportunities for self-growth and also contribute to the economy.
In a country like India which is undergoing rapid socio-economic transformation, we need a robust apprenticeship programme which moulds the youth into dynamic workers. India has an apprenticeship system in place according to the Apprenticeship Act of 1961, but it remains mired in bureaucracy. It is confronted by challenges of outdated curriculum and a lack of alignment between employers and apprentices. The current apprenticeship system in India in is limited in scope and capacity when compared to a growing labor force.
But there is a lot we can learn from the model and how other nations implement it.
The Apprenticeship Model
The apprenticeship model can be a viable model for skill enhancement compared to just the traditional academic, degree-oriented framework that exists today. It is a great complement to theory-based learning since it aligns training with current labor market needs. An apprenticeship involves a learner who undertakes training under a supervisor and immerses themselves in practical learning by completing specific tasks assigned to them.
One of the main characteristics of apprenticeships is its firm grasp on local labor market environments. Learning in an actual work setting enables an apprentice to acquire core functional and technical skills which are in tune with current industry changes and trends. Because apprenticeship is a job-driven model, the training they receive on the job is relevant to the present business environment.
Benefits of Workplace Training
Workplace training exposes an apprentice to the world of work where they can gain first-hand experience of various methodologies which they can integrate into their work. An apprentice is exposed to diverse perspectives and views which they can then apply to their work. They are encouraged to perform new and different tasks which keeps them motivated.
Being in the workplace gives the individual the freedom to learn and work simultaneously and they become better at their job. It increases their productivity because they can apply theoretical knowledge to practical purposes. The learner is able to bring forth an individualised perspective to their academic content rather than sticking to a generalised view.
Further, workplace training enables learners to acquire key professional and soft skills, which otherwise are hard to come by in a classroom environment. An apprentice gets the opportunity to interact with clients which makes them more mature and better problem solvers. They learn to work effectively with others and take initiative. Exchanging applicable ideas with real people in a working environment prepares students for the specific characteristics of organisations and develops their skills.
A Safer Route in Uncertainty
Going through an apprenticeship, receiving practical training from employers enables learners to plan their careers better. Career objectives get more clarity as trainees are supported by colleagues and teachers while they gain experience in their craft. It enhances their employment security and they can change career directions further in their life
The jobs of the future are such that cannot even be imagined. Apprenticeship ensures that young people can gain high-quality work experience and the requisite competencies to survive in a fast changing economy.
The apprenticeship model is demand driven which means it is responsive to industry needs. It involves continuous upskilling, so that the trainee’s productive capacity remains relevant in a changing industry. It matches skills with employer needs and can therefore contribute to bridging the employability skills gap in India.
Easier and Better Job Channel
Apprenticeship in India can serve as a viable source of human resource for companies. Apprentices often find a firm foothold in their host company and they constitute a reservoir of talent and competencies for that particular sector. Companies benefit from recruiting employees who have been trained in the latest work practices and can foster innovation and competitiveness. Apprentices acquire a wide range of aptitudes which reflect the equally wide range of skills required in a modern economy.
What we can learn from Germany
A country like Germany has combined classroom learning with enterprise-based training as part of formal education and training where learners alternate between a workplace and a training institution and acquire job-related competences.
In the German model, education is connected with industry aims. Here, learners acquire theoretical knowledge for their chosen profession in the classroom along with practical on-the-job training. The curriculum is constantly updated in response to technical advances and changing business practices and it is developed according to standards established by all stakeholders- employers and companies alike. This ensures that qualifications are recognized in the wider market and it sets quality benchmarks for employers. Course content is developed keeping in mind its ability to accommodate new professions and to adjust to modifications in the current ones.
What can India Do
India can emulate or adapt the German model to create diverse apprenticeship programmes that will bridge the employability skills gap in India. If apprenticeship in India is executed well, it can provide an inclusive learning environment which imparts specialized knowledge, equipping the youth with skills needed by companies.
India has a huge potential in terms of its demographic dividend which can be harnessed to provide the required manpower but it faces challenges of persistent skills gap. A well-designed apprenticeship system can enable skill acquisition and improve employability of Indian graduates.
We need to invest in skills development to drive a knowledge-based economy and equip our workforce with employability skills, raise the employability of Indian graduates so that the youngsters in our country can make the most of their potential in navigating a difficult economy.