Apprenticeships need to be agile to cater to the changing demands of the workforce

Opening remarks at the Sharing of good practices and lessons learned in apprenticeships from ADULT project workshop by Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director/OIC, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi.

Statement | New Delhi, India | 17 August 2023
I am delighted to welcome you to this ILO seminar on “Sharing of good practices and lessons learned in apprenticeships from ADULT project: Way forward based on the new recommendation on Quality Apprenticeships”. As indicated on the agenda, this seminar will focus on the promotion of quality apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are one the most prioritised areas of work for the ILO in India and across the world. We bring our expertise and experiences and create a forum for social dialogue on this topic to support the government, employers and workers in the country to modernize and transform apprenticeships to make the most of the system to create skilled workforce to meet the changing skills demand in the world of work, and to contribute to sustainable development.

Although apprenticeships are a centuries-old system, which enable young persons to acquire skills related to specific occupations, questions are increasingly being raised about its relevance for “skilling, reskilling and upskilling” in the context of the future of work and lifelong learning. As we all have witnessed, new technologies, demographic shifts, climate change, globalization, and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic have caused major disruptions to the world of work. Against this backdrop, it has become ever more important to build an agile workforce that is capable of navigating the fast-evolving labour market through appropriate and timely skilling, reskilling and upskilling. The use of apprenticeships models can be an effective solution in the context of the future of work, as it bridges the gap between education and training system and the world of work. It is within this context that we hold this seminar today to introduce the ILO’s latest work on apprenticeships in the country – first, ADULT project, second, the new recommendation on Quality Apprenticeships, and lastly, the South-South Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) project on Quality Apprenticeships.

First, the ILO has implemented a global research project “Apprenticeship Development for Universal Lifelong Learning and Training (ADULT)”, with the support of the Government of Flanders. The project has aimed at generating new ideas and policy options to modernise apprenticeship systems to meet the needs of not only young people, but all segments of the population in existing as well as new economic sectors, including the digital and green economy. As such, the project has explored how apprenticeship systems are being modernised and transformed to promote and enable lifelong learning and decent work for youth, adults, and older workers (both employed and unemployed) and provide recommendations for modernizing the apprenticeships in countries. The research has also covered other forms of work-based learning options for students in VET (Vocational Education & Training) institutes. Some of you may recall the Innovation Bootcamp that we held in April last year, where we introduced the interim findings from the country-level research in India, held under the project. Thanks to the valuable insights and experiences shared by more than 120 stakeholders in the event, the India country report was finalised and issued in March this year. Today, the key findings from the report will be presented. Also, we will discuss the promotion of apprenticeships in micro, small and medium enterprises, by focusing on one of the seven global thematic reports issued under the project.

Second, the ILO has successfully concluded the 111th International Labour Conference, two months ago in Geneva. One of the biggest achievements of the Conference was the adoption of a new Recommendation on Quality Apprenticeships, R208, which was discussed and adopted by more than 180 member states with their constituents. The main objective of the recommendation is to support the creation of “opportunities for people of all ages to become skilled, reskilled and continuously up-skilled" in the rapidly changing labour market. This is based on the understanding that quality apprenticeships can support job creation; transition from the informal to the formal economy; and the growth and sustainability of enterprises. These elements will contribute to social inclusion and more equal labour markets and societies. These reasons highlight the importance of the new international labour standard. The standard setting discussion succeeded in moving from taking stock of existing practices to formulating a global aspirational standard for quality apprenticeships. It outlines:

• a clear definition of apprenticeship,
• the regulatory framework,
• the rights and protection of apprentices
• the apprenticeship agreement,
• equality and diversity in apprenticeships,
• the promotion of quality apprenticeships, and
• modes for international, national and regional cooperation.

More details on the new recommendation will be presented in the following session today.

Lastly, the ILO has also implemented the South-South Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) project on Quality Apprenticeships. The project has offered a platform to share knowledge and experiences on apprenticeships in India, Ethiopia, China, and South Africa to explore innovative approaches and initiatives that contribute to upgrading apprenticeships in each country. Two weeks ago, we have just organized the high-level policy dialogue and capacity building workshops under the project, where we invited representatives from the government, employers and workers from all the four countries to get together in Pretoria, South Africa. The delegations made active discussions on some of the common challenges on apprenticeships in the four countries. For example, “How to make apprenticeships more attractive for both apprentices and industries?” “How to increase apprenticeships opportunities in micro, small and medium enterprises?” and “What are the roles of Sector Skills bodies and other intermediaries in facilitating and promoting apprenticeships?”, and so on. Today, I am very pleased that the four participants from the Indian delegation will join us in the session in the afternoon to share with us their reflections on their visit to South Africa and key learnings from the experience. As such, in the area of apprenticeships, the ILO has:

• collected good practices and lessons learned across different countries through the ADULT project;
• helped establish the new recommendation on quality apprenticeships as the latest common reference to inform apprenticeships in today’s world of work; and
• created a forum for social dialogue and peer learning through the South-South Triangular Cooperation project on quality apprenticeships.

All in all, based on the new recommendation, the ILO is ready and willing to support our constituents both at policy and practice levels in realising quality apprenticeships in India.

I hope today’s seminar will help facilitate understandings on challenges and opportunities for apprenticeships in the country and prioritise areas for joint actions among the constituents and wider stakeholders in the apprenticeships ecosystem, as well as with the support of the ILO. With these words, once again, I would like to welcome all of you and hope you will have fruitful discussions today.