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India Skills 2018: Revamped ITIs and flexible apprenticeship help bridge gap between skills, market

Pallavi Rebbapragada
Youngsters searching for skills spill far beyond the campuses of IITs, the segment of the population that overcomes shortage of financial resources to enter the workforce through technical skills.

In December 2014, the government of the day brought in amendments to The Apprentices Act 1961 and made the said Act more attractive to industry and the skill-seeking young India. The amendments were brought in since the Ministry of Skill Development's interactions with stakeholders revealed that a good number of establishments where training facilities are available but these facilities hadn't been utilised because such establishments expressed an inability to come under the Act, citing lack of government support. Up until last year, Germany had 3 million apprentices and USA 0.5 million apprentices, while India had only 0.3 million. There's still a long way to go.

Keeping in view the seasonality of operation or business or flexibility desired by trade apprentice, a trade apprentice, as per the amendments, can complete period of apprenticeship training within five years or double the duration of the said training whichever is less from the date of starting of the apprenticeship training. The clause of the 'optional trade apprentice' was inserted. This means an apprentice who is not undergoing apprenticeship training in a designated trade. Stringent clauses like imprisonment and the outsourcing of basic training to other industries were removed.

The new Act made it obligatory for employers to engage apprentices in designated trades to impart training on the job in industry to school dropouts, Industrial Training Institute (ITI) pass-outs, diploma holders and those holding certificates in 10+2 vocational streams. The ITIs were also revamped under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) with new norms for building, assets, facilities, training infrastructure and equipment.

Results from the structural and legal changes were visible at the India Skills Nationals Competition 2018 for which 400 participants from across 27 states and union territories have arrived at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the national capital. From 2-5 October, they are showcasing their talent and competing in 45 skills like 3D game art, aircraft maintenance, CNC milling and bricklaying.

Aside from these 45, there are 10 traditional skills and four demo skills to compete in. Firstpost caught up with some of the competitors to gauge the extent of impact the new skilling machinery is having on young lives.

"My parents are farmers. My dreams of enrolling in an engineering degree were broken by poverty and I dropped out of school after passing 10th grade. I couldn't even make it to class 12th, something I had never imagined," shared the 23-year-old Dilip Babu, from Bangalore, who is in the national capital to participate in an aircraft maintenance participation. He joined an ITI course to learn the Fitter trade for two years and joined Apprenticeship Training in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited subsequently.

"Technicians are put through training two to three days every month and are taught how to built fuselages that are sent to the equipping hanger that enables the construction of an indigenous aircraft," he added, sharing that he might just be able to fulfil his dream of being able to pursue aircraft maintenance engineering. David Nag, from Bhursu in Jharkhand, has come to Delhi to compete in the skill category of welding. At his year-long course at the Jharkhand Government's MSDE Tool Room, he learnt complex forms of welding like Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) and Gas-shielded Metal Arc Welding/Flux Cored Arc Welding (GMAW/FCAW). David, along with his friends, was headed to Tata Marcopolo's Dharwad plant for an apprenticeship but chose to pursue welding more seriously.

According to a report titled 'Overview of the Welding Industry in India: Challenges & Applications' the welding equipment industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6€"7 percent over the next five years and the Indian welding consumables and equipment manufacturers need to produce high quality and unique goods to stay competitive in Indian and international markets. David Nag feels that welders like him with advanced technical training can lend a new lease of life to the sector that's mainstream and yet not. Another welder at the competition, Ramesh Gope from Bhubaneswar, said that the Skill Development Institute in Odisha's capital taught him how to use new materials and new techniques.

The 21-year-old Shivam Kumar is a CNC Milling expert from Ludhiana, Punjab. CNC Milling is a specific form of computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining. Milling is similar to drilling and cutting using a rotating cylindrical cutting tool. The cutter is able to move along multiple axes and can create most kinds of shapes, slots and holes. Shivam Kumar feels the motivation to represent his region, state and country in a niche skill like the one he does feels like a dream. India won 1 Silver, 1 Bronze and 9 Medallions of Excellence and ranked 19th among 56 countries at the last WorldSkills 2017 that was held in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Nagma Sheikh from Vapi in Gujarat's Valsad district is out here competing with men in bricklaying. "Traditionally, the task is taken up by men because women feel it requires strength. I am passionate about design and want to make structures myself," she told Firstpost that she first completed her diploma in civil engineering and is now pursuing a degree in the same subject. It is this skill, she feels, that brings her closer to her passion and she's here to build on it.

In the same contingent of students is Faizan Mir, a 12th grade student of Green Valley Educational Institution in Srinagar has automated fans and lights in his room and draws his curtains using a mobile robot and four years ago, had also built a drone. Along with his remote sensing devices, he developed the prototype of a robot that can be controlled from any part of the world using a GSM network and a mobile device. "He won a bronze medal at a competition in IIT Delhi three years ago but back here in Srinagar, even the NIT doesn't offer robotic sciences," said Yousuf, Faizan's father.

An economic survey report tabled by the government in the end of 2017 in the legislative assembly predicted an increase in the dropout rate in the school education department.

As per the figures, the dropout rate in primary and upper primary classes has seen a considerable increase from 6.93 percent and 5.36 percent in 2015-16 to 10.30 and 10.20 percent in 2016-17. While on one hand, stories about Faizan Mir's inventions have earned him the admiration of the student community that's grown up around violence and fear, it's also true that the young inventor wishes to pursue robotics at an international university owing to the lack of options available to him back home.

While the country is reeling under deaths in sewer lines, few are raising the issue of greater awareness among those engaging in plumbing or related activities. After his father's death, India Skills contestant Rahul Chavan enrolled in a vocational course on plumbing supported by Voltas, an IPSC Authorised Training Partner, where he said he picked up practical knowledge about gas line fittings. Chavan had put himself through an ITI course on plumbing before this. Practical knowledge among technicians in the field can do its bit in averting incidents caused by gas pipeline leaks.

At Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, practice is competing with theory. To some extent, premium institutions have acknowledged the need for greater connect between the two. In the past, at IIT-Kanpur, Boeing has funded several projects in departments of mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering and wind-tunnel engineering. The company had chosen the institute for its ability to provide expert technological research support in the form of operating models (simulation and prototypes), design and analytics. The institute has had research engagements with companies like Moser Baer India Limited, Chevron Corporation (USA), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Qualcomm Incorporated and Intel.

Youngsters searching for skills spill far beyond the campuses of IITs, the segment of the population that overcomes shortage of financial resources to enter the workforce through technical skills.

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