Legal Articles

Need to encourage engagement of apprentices

Apprenticeship Act was introduced way back in 1961 and it came into operation from 1962. Thereafter, the Act has been amended many times to widen its ambit and scope so that large number of theoretically trained boys and girls could be benefited. Its objective was passed to meet the increasing demand for skilled craftsman in the development of the country. It is intended by the Govt., to utilise, facilities available for training apprentices and to ensure that their training is in accordance with a planned programme. With the gradual development of industries, diverse types of disputes began to crop up between the employers and the apprentices and to get over them, this Act was formed. This Act is meant to regulate and control the training of apprentices in trades and matters connected therewith. The Act envisages clarifying the relationship between the employers and apprentices. The apprentices are not treated as workers. This Act endeavors to make provisions for the health, safety, welfare etc. of the apprentices. It also contains provisions for settling disputes arising out of the contract between the employers and the apprentices.

Employment scenario is the index of the progress of the country on the ground level. However, there is no gainsaying that the present NDA government might have been successful on many fronts but it has practically failed in the area of employment generation. Reports say with conclusive proofs that the generation of employment has been virtually stagnant or declined. Solution to the unemployment, no doubt, is the creation of more jobs. Needless to mention the present government had promised to create at least one crore job every year. Its failure can be inferred from the fact that it has hardly been able to provide jobs to even for two lakh persons, which is much less than even the previous lacklustre Government could do. Statistics suggest that during Manmohan Singh’s time nearly ten lakh jobs were created in 2009 itself.

Although literacy rates have risen in the last few decades, yet there still remains a fundamental flaw in the education system in India. The curriculum is mostly theory – oriented and fails to provide vocational training required to match up with current economic environment. The degree – oriented system renders itself redundant when it comes to producing human resources adept at fitting into specific profiles within the economy. The think tank of the Niti Aayog on 27th August 2017 released its Three Year Action Agenda for 2017-20, in which it called for a need to focus on higher education and greater skills for increasing employability. An assessment of 1,50,000 engineering graduates in 2016 found that only 18% of engineers were employable in the software sector in a functional role, only 41% in non – functional business process outsourcing and only 4% in software engineering start-ups.

Some simple methods could have certainly gone a long way in mitigating the acuteness of unemployment in the country. What is, however, baffling rather shocking is that the Government has not been able to take employers on board with regard to engagement of apprentices under the Apprenticeship Act of 1961 by clearing their misconceptions and doubts. Let it be understood that apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training and related classroom instruction under the supervision of a craft person or trade professional in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation.

An apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study (classroom work and reading). Apprenticeship also enables practitioners to gain a license to practice in a regulated profession. Most of their training is done while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade or profession, in exchange for their continued labour for an agreed period of after they have achieved measurable competencies.
Although the formal boundaries and terminology of the apprentice/journeyman/master system often do not extend outside of guilds and trade unions, the concept of on-the-job training leading to competence over a period of year is found in any field of skilled labour.

It regulates the programme of training of apprentices in the industry so as to conform to the syllabi, period of training etc. as laid down by the Central Apprenticeship Council and to utilize fully the facilities available in industry for imparting practical training with a view to meeting the requirements of skilled manpower for industry.

The Apprentices Act initially envisaged the training of trade apprentice. The Act was amended in 1973 to include training of graduate and diploma engineer as “Graduate” & “Technician” Apprentices. The act was further amended in 1986 to bring within its purview the training of the 10+2 vocational stream as “Technician (Vocational)”. Through apprenticeship one becomes skilled in trade or job by learning under people who know the ropes.

Thus, apprentices have the opportunity to earn while they learn, gain real life experience and improve their job prospects. Apprenticeships allows to combine work and study by mixing on-the-job training with classroom learning. One is employed to do a real job while studying for a formal qualification. By the end of apprenticeship, one has hopefully gained the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in chosen career.

There are hundreds of different trades – from hairdresser to mechanic, electrician to chef, plumber to cabinet maker. One can start the process of becoming an apprentice at any time : at school, just out of school, even when already working or when one is unemployed. As apprentice and employer enter into a legal agreement called a training contract. This lasts until one has completed.

The engagement of apprentices contributes in its own way for the employment generation in the country and also for creating the good employee – employer relationship necessary for the conducive atmosphere for large scale industrialization. It has taken up this challenge to enlighten the employers that the provisions of Apprenticeship Act are far more beneficial to the employers than the job seekers. Needless to reiterate that under the National Apprenticeship Programme, India has over 2.5 lakhs apprentices in different industries. This is not comparable in scale with China, for instance, where the number is supposed to be about one crore, or in Japan, where it is about 40 lakhs. Hence the employers have to work shoulder to shoulder with Government in its scheme under Apprentices Act. This will not only create more jobs but will be a positive step parallel to corporate social responsibility.

Herein below are the advantages for the employers in engaging apprentices under the Act:

1. Assuming that the average wages of an employee in India is Rs. 10000/- p.m., the employer engaging the apprentice at its own choice (not obliged to engage through apprenticeship office) will be paid Rs. 7000/- p.m. as stipend.

2. Out of Rs. 7000/-, Rs. 1500/- will be reimbursed by the apprenticeship office.

3. An apprentice will not be an ‘employee’ hence neither he will be covered under Employees Provident Fund and MP Act or ESI Act or Payment of Bonus Act or the Payment of Gratuity Act. This will be the saving of about 20% – 25% to the employer.

4. As apprentice will be comparatively more productive than other employees since he will be a learner and motivated for making his career.

5. An apprentice is not a ‘workman’ under Industrial Disputes Act hence not entitled to protection as available to the workman of the establishment.

6. The bargaining power of the employer with the workers/trade union will be strengthened since the apprentices can’t be members of the union and would not join in militant or agitational activities by the unions/workers.

7. It will be easier and economical in recruitment since the talented apprentices can be given employment.

Unfortunately it has not been enforced aggressively probably because of certain assumptions and reservations of the employers that engaging apprentices statutorily under the Act was cumbersome and counter-productive. This very basic conception has in modern time taken various shapes viz PMKY and other schemes and Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi also recently launched National Apprentice Promotion Scheme during is recent visit to Kanpur. In this backdrop the Apprentice Act 1961 (52 of 1961) must have been enacted by the Central Government to regulate the programme of training of apprentices in the industry fully utilizing the facilities available therein. The shop floor training is an important ingredient for acquiring necessary skill.

Therefore, the benefits of engaging the apprentices are mutual but in the ultimate it always comes to the country. Apprentices get an opportunity of undergoing ‘on the job’ training and are exposed to real working conditions. They get a chance to work on advanced, machines and equipment’s, industry specific best practices and learn more about their field. Apprentices become skilled workers and skills in a trade or occupation, which help them in getting wage or self – employment. On the other hand, the industry or the employers get the trained persons, who can be employed on the basis of their efficiency, performance and conduct.

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