Internships are important in improving the transition between education and employment, if India has to reap its demographic dividend.

Another such tool for skill development is apprenticeship.

Around 12 million people are expected to join the workforce every year over the next decade. In contrast, the country has a total training capacity of around 4.3 million. While internships are most relevant for the 17 million students enrolled in tertiary education, apprenticeships are a useful means to skill millions of youth and upskill or re-skill hundreds of millions of other people in the working age population.

What is apprenticeship?

At its core, the apprenticeship model is earning while learning and doing. Trainees undergo a dual programme through a classroom instruction at a vocational school and an on-the-job training at an employer. These provide the ideal combination of a theoretical understanding of the area and the practical skills required for the job. The apprentices develop both skills and personality through the programme.

Germany’s acclaimed Apprenticeship Programme

Germany has the lowest youth unemployment rate in Europe and among the lowest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. One of the most important, if not the only, reasons is its Dual Vocational Training System (TVET).

In this system, students after their high school apply to a private company for a up to three-year contract. Upon acceptance, the students receive in-class training in their field of choice at a government-funded vocational school. The practical training and vocational schools have both separate legislation and curricula. Most students spend 3-4 days a week at work and 1-2 days in the school. At the end of the term, students receive a certificate that ensures that they can transfer between similar businesses.

The system works because the government, private businesses and intermediaries, including chambers of commerce and industry and unions, are aligned in their objectives and each has its own incentives.

Problems with India’s current model

Having spoken to many young men and women in urban and rural India, the biggest reason for the non-uptake of Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) is poor industry linkages. This means these men and women do not often have a job at the end of the training, and thus the opportunity cost of going through the training is very high. Poor industry linkages also mean the private sector and the government do not co-design the curriculum, which leads to a curriculum that is not relevant for the private sector. Additionally, the lack of investment in infrastructure and technology affects learning atmosphere and overall development of students.

3 reasons why India can’t simply adopt the German model

(1) The state in Germany pays the school fees and also supports high schools and community colleges to be training partners.

(2) The schooling system in Germany supports the apprenticeship model.

(3) Standardized curriculum is developed by the government in collaboration with educational institutes, the private sector, employee unions and chambers of industry and commerce.

How can India bring different pieces of the puzzle together?

Over the last decade, both in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and in the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime, there has been a strong emphasis on skilling and employment, leading to many initiatives and programmes. While not perfect, India has the basic architecture in place. This includes the ITIs (government owned and managed and private) that provide vocational skills, National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) which is under development, and National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) that provides funding to build scalable, for-profit vocational training initiatives through public-private partnership.

NSDC further supports curriculum design and development, faculty training, standards and quality assurance, technology platforms and student placement mechanisms. However, both the public and private sector can go a long way in collaborating with each other and helping skill millions of young people.

It is time that India uses its existing architecture, learns from the German model and develops its own comprehensive and multi-stakeholder apprenticeship model.

Sriram Gutta is Knowledge Lead, Strategy and Performance and Global Leadership Fellow at World Economic Forum.

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