Apprentice Act amended to expand skilled workforce

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a Bill amending  the Apprentices Act, 1961, in order to open up apprenticeship opportunities for  youths with non-engineering degrees and diplomas to meet the growing demand for skilled workforce.

The bill also provides for reducing the quantum of penalty for employers violating the law.
Introduced on August 7, the bill was passed by the House on the last day of the Budget Session of Parliament, while the Congress and other Opposition parties demanded that it be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. 

Labour Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said implementation of the Apprenticeship Training Scheme was not satisfactory, given the size and rate of growth of the economy.
A large number of training facilities available in the industry were going unutilised, depriving unemployed youth the benefits of the scheme, he added.

Replying to the debate on the bill, Tomar said, as against 4.9 lakh apprentice vacancies, only 2.8 lakh were filled.

“This bill is intended to meet the country’s growing requirement of skilled workforce and add to its competitive edge in the world,” said the labour minister, adding that the bill was intended to make apprenticeship more responsive to youth and industry aspirations. 

The bill is also aimed at reassuring the employers, who believe the Act in its present form discouraged them from engaging apprentices, as its penal provisions raised the bogey of prosecution.

The old Act provided for imprisonment or fine or both for employers flouting its provisions. The bill now seeks to do away with imprisonment and retain only the fine for non-compliance.

It also provides for employers to start new courses or optional trades based on demand and determine qualification, period of apprenticeship training, holding of test, grant of certificate and other conditions relating to the apprentice. Speaking on the bill, N K Premchandran (Revolutionary Socialist Party) said the employers had so far offered apprenticeship to youths of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes only because the law had stringent penal provisions for violation, including non-reservation of seats for those from weaker sections of the society.

If this provision is done away with, it would adversely effect aspirants from poor and downtrodden families, he said.

Adhir Choudhury (Cong) criticised the government for rushing the bill. "I find that this government is in a hurry to pass the legislation, which is contrary to its intention. The government recognises itself as a Government for the corporate, by the corporate and of the corporate,” he said, demanding that the bill be examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. M B Rajesh (CPM) seconded the demand.

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