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Employment Vs Employability Skills - Implement a Job-Specific Apprenticeship System Across All Commercial Industries : Capt-Kapil-Dev-Bahl


One of my earliest recollections of seemingly contradictory situations prevailing simultaneously, was as a young officer on board a ship in India. The Master was keen to complete cargo operations as soon as possible due to another charter commitment. However, the stevedore foreman as well as the supervisor were very apologetic about the slow rate of cargo discharging operations, because of a “severe shortage of labour”. However, during my shore leave earlier that same day, I noticed scores of young healthy men, hanging around outside the port main gate, looking for manual work. Whom do I believe, the stevedore or the labourer looking for a job, I thought to myself. The problem is obviously, lack of employability.

The situation with farm labour is equally confusing. Cultivation of most agri-products, including cereal grains, vegetables, cash crops or horticultural, is viable only if payment for daily wage labour input, is restricted to about 12 man-days per month for a five-month crop (basis husband-wife couple wage of Rs 800 per day). I know from personal experience, that except during severe drought years, most farm hands are content to work in the fields for about 12 days, which enables them to meet the family requirements of livelihood. Despite poverty and joblessness, farm labourers do not obtain suitable employment in other jobs, during the remaining days of the month. Lack of employability !!

Legal cases are piling up in court and justice is delayed, due to shortage of "judges". At the same time, we see scores of lawyers hanging around outside most courts, soliciting routine work. The examination held by the Bar Council of India, before granting the ‘sanad’ (licence to practice), speaks volumes of the trust BCI has on the LLB graduation certificates issued by various law colleges in India. In any case, paper qualifications are losing value rapidly, due to commercialization of the education system

One feels proud to see Indian students excelling in ‘spelling-bee’ competitions or rattling-off the capital of each nation on earth. This is heartening when compared to the performance of comparative students in several western countries. However, the tables appear to be reversed when one compares, nonconformal, unconventional or creative thinking abilities, or the means to cope with the threat posed by mechanization, artificial intelligence etc.

I believe that most graduates need to be trained for several months before they are found fit to commence working independently.

I submit that our present education system fails us and our society in general, in this regard. (I must add that the dismal record of “entrepreneurship” in India, may be attributed, not to the inadequate education system but to the absence of a robust legal system, poor governance (licence regime) and archaic labour laws).


Employability, in my mind, means desirable attributes which would enable a person to obtain employment, to retain it and to meet new job requirements within the organization. The means to obtain such desirable attributes, include Academic or Technical Education, Vocational Training & Skill Development. One needs to differentiate between literacy and knowledge, both being essential components to employability


Emphasis on memorizing data, which is easily accessible on the internet, needs to be tempered.

The system prevailing in the Indian Armed Forces is noteworthy. Not only is the education and training, delivering results, but the system to impart adequate training and skills such that permanent or short-service commission personnel are able to obtain suitable jobs after retirement, is remarkable. Since, unlike say Singapore or Switzerland or Turkey, India does not implement a system of “reserve forces or auxiliary services”; active participation of all students in the “National Cadet Corp” may be considered useful.

The “Industrial Training Institutes”, constituted under the Directorate General of Employment of Training, Ministry of Labour & Employment, specially established to impart technical knowledge and skills to students (who do wish pursue higher studies) and to provide manpower to the rapidly growing industrial sector, specifically demand that each person undergoes practical training in the chosen field or industry for one year, before granting a “Vocational Training Certificate”. This institution needs to strengthened, the standards enhanced and the model expanded into the public-private sector.

The “National Skill Development Corporation” set up as Public Private Partnership model, provides funding to vocational training and supports as well as coordinates, private sector initiatives. This system needs to be encouraged as a compulsory CSR activity across the entire industrial spectrum in the public sector, to ensure widespread implementation.

The nature of jobs at sea for merchant navy crew, has traditionally demanded a period of “apprenticeship”. This system has successfully ensured that, in addition to the academic achievements, the student receives hand-on training and practical knowledge.

The medical profession too has in place a system of hospital training, which is closely monitored by the Medical Council of India.

My suggestion is to implement a job-specific apprenticeship system across all commercial industries. This would, in my view go a long way in addressing the issue of employability. This may best be achieved by implementing active partnerships between the academic or training institution and the industry as well as strengthening the above mentioned institutions .

A word of caution against over-reliance on the “apprenticeship model”. Crew on board our country-crafts (traditional sailing vessels) or “dhows” as referred to customarily, learn seamanship, navigation etc, entirely ‘on the job’, from family or community. There is no structured training institution. This is the other extreme end of the “apprenticeship model” spectrum and for obvious reasons, needs to be avoided.

If we can get this right, India can look forward to reaping the population dividend and making a place for herself internationally as a reliable service provider.

About The Author

Capt. Kapil Dev Bahl is one of the most respected maritime professionals with nearly 5 decades of experience in the industry. Capt. Bahl is an ex “Dufferin” cadet of the 1969-1971 batch and a Master Mariner. He sailed on board general cargo ships, bulk carriers & OBO/tankers including 5 years in command. From 1989 to 2015, he worked as a Nautical, Cargo & Warranty Surveyor for the P&I, H&M & Shipping Industry (specializing in salvage & wreck removal ops), as well as an OCIMF SIRE accredited Oil Major Vetting Inspector and Maritime arbitrator.

He has a post-graduate degree in law (LLB), has passed the Chartered Inst. of Transport, London, the Inst. of Chartered Shipbrokers, London and Narottam Morarjee Institute of Shipping, Mumbai; Associate Examinations.

He is a Fellow & Court Warden of the “Company of Master Mariners of India”, a member of the Governing Council of “Narottam Morarjee Institute of Shipping” and President of the Nautical Institute India West.

Source: TST Newsdesk

Jul 15, 2019