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Need for Awareness to Build the Apprenticeship Brand

Posted on 11th October 2018 by Mr. Bharat Pawar, Senior Vice President - Human Resources at National Bulk Handling Corporation

National Bulk Handling Corporation (NBHC) is India's leading provider of integrated commodity and collateral management services, offering world-class processes and services in procurement, handling, storage and upkeep of collateral and agri-commodities.

As the HR Head at NBHC, it is obvious that I have a strong interest in human capital development, and coincidentally in the role of apprenticeships as one of the many routes to get there. Historically in India, employers have taken a passive stand as the Apprenticeship Act of 1961 primarily focused on the industrial era. Furthermore, amendments in 1973, 1986 and 1997 have been progressively agonizing and narrow. The obligatory legislative requirement that every employer 'should have apprentices', did very little to help the case for apprenticeships as such a requirement was seen, rightly so, as dictatorial and heavy-handed.

Although recent efforts by the government to boost vocational and apprenticeships in India are commendable, through schemes such as the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), the actual induction numbers of trainees by Indian companies do not speak of much success. The pace of skill building needs to pick up manifold to truly make a dent in the skill gap requirement across various sectors in India.

I have observed that there is a serious lack of awareness amongst employers on apprenticeships and a lot more needs to be done to publicise and promote its benefits. Employers need to understand that apprenticeships have a dual advantage of skilling their employees/apprentices and also benefits the organisation in the long term with access to a fresh talent pool at all times. Additionally, an apprentice's skills can be molded to the exact business needs of the organisation making him/her the perfect match to the company's future needs.

We believe that further thrust for apprenticeships can be created by instituting new connectivity to online and higher education. We are of the firm view that our obsession with educational degrees can be reduced via strategy changes that will allow academies to give acclaim for apprenticeships — a form of recognition of prior learning — and increase pull for apprentices by allowing their lateral entry into degree programs.

At NBHC, we recognise the crucial role played by our valuable partners who are spread across the commodity ecosystem such as warehousing, cold storage solutions, and logistics service providers, among others. The nature of our business requires skilled hands-on tradespersons. We are proud of our partners who are supporting the apprenticeship cause by inducting freshers in rural markets and providing them with employment opportunities such as training in digital skills to use in-house apps in Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). The trainees are typically undergraduates who show a lot of enthusiasm to work in agriculture related roles as they hail from the same background. On successful completion of the apprenticeships, the trainees are absorbed as full-time employees thus giving them a secure career progression path. This proves to be a win-win situation for both our partners and the trainees.

Creating an apprenticeship programme in organisations requires the explicit buy-in from Management and HR. We have seen the benefits first hand and we hope to see an increased uptake of skills-based training in many more organisations in our sector.

Mr. Bharat Pawar
Senior Vice President
Human Resources at National Bulk Handling Corporation.

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