The RoI on Apprenticeships & Work-Based Learning in India

TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship and GAN Global hosted a webinar, on 22 February 2023, to kick off a series of joint virtual events that will explore in deeper detail specific themes around the potential of WBL and apprenticeships for Indian youth to enter the job market and improve their employability in a variety of sectors. The webinar was also an opportunity to announce a partnership between GAN Global and TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship to scale degree apprenticeship adoption in the country.

“Our mission is to achieve employment for all worldwide, and we believe that Indian youth is a significant quadrant in the ecosystem. Apprenticeship programs are one of the most powerful solutions to bridge the skills gap and increase the employability of the youth cohort. It is beneficial for the candidates as well as employers, which prepares the apprentices for long-term employment. This partnership represents a significant opportunity to drive positive change in the Indian workforce and create a brighter future for all.”

Nazrene Mannie, Executive Director, GAN Global

The expansion of the apprenticeship system in India is vital to improve the skills supply in a rapidly expanding economy. We brought together the following business leaders and policymakers to discuss the challenges and share solutions that increase WBL participation across emerging sectors for both companies and learners/apprentices:

  • Nazrene Mannie, GAN Global, Executive Director
  • Rituparna Chakraborty, Executive Director, CEO and Co-Founder, TeamLease Services Limited
  • Dr KP Krishnan, Former Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship
  • Sumit Kumar, Chief Business Officer, Chief Business Officer, TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship
  • Anita Rajan, Chief Executive Officer, Tata STRIVE
  • Anirvan Sen, Executive Director – HR, UBS
  • Menno Bart, Senior Manager, Public Affairs, The Adecco Group
  • Gary Workman, Executive Director, GAN Australia, and Apprenticeship Employment Network (AEN)
  • Akustina Morni, Senior Adviser, International Organisation of Employers (IOE)
  • Anurag Patnaik, Director, Human Resources, Nestlé, South Asia Region

The overall objective of hosting this virtual event was to review the specific apprenticeship and work-based learning policy landscape in India and explore how barriers can be lowered through effective partnerships to strengthen the attractiveness of WBL and apprenticeships for both companies and individual learners/apprentices. The private sector highlighted WBL solutions and apprenticeships offered by their companies that encourage youth to take up career opportunities in new and emerging occupations. Several of the experiences shared by GAN Global members cut across multiple countries and sectors.       

About TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship – GAN Collaboration

The virtual event kicked off by announcing the partnership with TeamLease, whose vision is to make Indian youth employable. The collaboration with GAN is to exchange information about and support the promotion of apprenticeship and WBL programmes within India and globally. This marks a turning point in driving the adoption of apprenticeship programs in India, by ensuring the availability of global best practices, intellectual resources, and case studies, to enable organizations, policymakers, institutes of learning, and all stakeholders.

Ms Chakraborty referred to the important lessons on apprenticeship systems from countries such as Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. She added that she is looking forward to working with GAN Global to advocate for the status of apprenticeships, as a powerful tool to address employability gaps, skill workforces and strengthen economies. To drive the WBL agenda forward, we need to advocate for the business case and showcase the ROI. To scale WBL, we need public-private partnerships, according to Ms Mannie.

The sentiment around apprentice deployment has significantly improved over the past few years, with close to 77% of employers in India keen to increase their apprentice pool. Over the last three years, employer intent towards deploying apprentices has increased by 6% year over year. Both traditional and emerging sectors are becoming more receptive to the model. While this demonstrates the growing acceptance towards degree apprenticeships and WBL in India, the growth is subdued, hence the partnership between GAN Global and TeamLease to raise awareness and build multi-stakeholder connections for scaling.[1]

Policy Context and the Social Value of Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships for higher-level engineering jobs are not a recent concept in India. Dr Krishnan gave the example of the Indian railway system, which was built upon the Special Class Railway Apprentice (SCRA) scheme in 1927, by the British. A select group of apprentices was trained in workshops, followed by one year of training in the UK, qualifying them to take the Mechanical Engineering Degree Examination held by the Engineering Council in London.

Today, however, the structure of apprenticeships around the manufacturing sector is a remnant of a bygone era. There are a few reasons for this including a need to align apprenticeships with an economy focusing on services and non-formal jobs. Dr Krishnan gave a few suggestions for some of the challenges, including employer participation and the public sector playing a role in working with informal enterprises on OSHA standards.

On the public perception of apprenticeships, Dr Krishnan gave a telling example of a young man who already was making a decent living after having gone through the apprenticeship pathway, however, he wanted to pursue an additional degree to render him more attractive in the marriage market. 

The ROI of Apprenticeship and WBL in India

With most jobs generated by SMEs, the main question raised by Mr Kumar is how to make apprenticeships more aspirational for this important engine of the economy. He referred to the Australian Group Training Organisation (GTO) model as an excellent example to ease the burden for individual SMEs on costs, obligations, and processes. In India, Mr Kumar referred to its “learning crisis” in which only 40% of employers can say that they have their talent needs fulfilled, with talent retention a major concern.

On the benefits of apprenticeship, according to TeamLease research, 80% of participating employers report several benefits including an improvement in hiring costs and the ability to attract talent. On skills development, those employers rated apprentices as having increased skills in communications, attention to detail, teamwork, and adaptability. 

Industry Insights from Tata STRIVE on Making Apprenticeship and WBL a Success

Tata STRIVE is a non-profit organisation that focuses on skilling people and linking them with apprenticeships. It works with over 300 industrial training institutes, such as TVETs in the manufacturing sector. Ms Rajan confirmed Mr Kumar’s point on MSMEs being the engine of economic growth and business activity. There are limitations to how much a large company can absorb, and a great potential for apprenticeships to be unlocked in the MSMEs sphere.

One example that Ms Rajan gave included a collaboration with Siemens, in which students are linked with MSMEs. The program starts as an implant exposure, and after two years, it is recognised as an apprenticeship. Another way the organisation has been encouraging involvement with MSMEs is through industry meets.

There is a misperception about MSMEs, and many students are unaware of the cutting technology that they are deploying and the learning opportunities that can be leveraged. As many young people prefer working with a larger company, Tata STRIVE creates awareness around the attractiveness of MSMEs as skilling engines.  

On the supply side, there is also a misperception of apprenticeships by employers, large and small. For larger companies, the main reasons are a lack of awareness; a perception that any incentivized or government support scheme is laborious; and insufficient evidence supporting the ROI/business case. For MSMEs, the challenges stem from cost and a high minimum wage. Ms Rajan referred to a common facility mechanism for sharing costs, such as industry clusters to ease the burden for MSMEs. 

On this point, Ms Chakraborty stressed that as a large part of the Indian economy is driven by MSMEs, policies to enable access and increase participation within the training system, are helpful. This is where learning from other countries’ experiences through the GAN can be extremely helpful.

Moderated Panel Discussion Showcasing GAN Member Company and Partner Case Studies

Referring to India’s G20 presidency this year, one of the priorities for Business 20 (B20) is on skilling, upskilling, and reskilling, according to Ms Morni. The IOE is Co-Chair of the B20 Taskforce on Future of Work, Skilling & Mobility. The government of India has contributed greatly to shaping the ILO Standard Setting process on Apprenticeships and the ILO will soon have a Recommendation as an instrument providing member states with guidance on how to promote quality apprenticeships.

According to an IOE and ILO study[2], 66% of Indian CEOs stated that they don’t have the skills their businesses are seeking and with more than half of jobs at risk of automation, there is great potential for apprenticeships and WBL to reduce the skills gap in the country. A few policy levers that Ms Morni recommends include:

Having just hosted a Future of Apprenticeships Conference, sharing best practices from New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland, Mr Workman affirmed that challenges on skills shortages are similar across countries, no matter how developed its apprenticeship system may be. Some of the key findings he observed from the conference and study tours are that MSMEs are the main driver for potential apprenticeship growth; a school-based apprenticeship system such as that of the Swiss system lies at the heart of its success; apprenticeships can be leveraged to reinforce core skills in diverse communities, including disadvantaged groups. The conference overall highlighted challenges and solutions on how to integrate MSMEs in the apprenticeship ecosystem and he is happy to share the conference findings with interested parties.

With a rich history of apprenticeship in its DNA, the Swiss-based financial institution UBS shared how it is adapting its model to an Indian workforce. Having a worldwide presence for 160 years, with many of its chairpersons having gone the apprenticeship route, the company has had to adjust its training strategy for the Indian market, according to Mr Sen. The company has only established a limited presence in the country in the last seven years and quickly learned that the Swiss apprenticeship model cannot be easily transplanted from one context to another. In India, the focus on WBL is through internships, and getting interns exposed to various business functions. The company is interested in the notion of degree apprenticeships, as a challenge is making the experience more marketable for interns. 

The Adecco Group’s research on workers across 25 countries points to 77% of employees in need of new skills, according to Mr Bart. Companies have a vital role in finding and retaining talent as workers do have a say. With digital transitions shaping workforce trends in how we work, mindsets need to shift accordingly and systems including education, also need to adapt to these transitions. WBL can be the answer to skills needs, especially for SMEs, and Mr Bart provided examples of The Adecco Group launching programs in France and the US that enable them to cultivate talent.

In a country as diverse as India’s, Nestlé has adapted its WBL programmes in a myriad of ways. According to Mr Patnaik, the company started trading in India in 1912, and manufacturing in the country since 1959. The company is a strong believer in contributing to communities in bigger ways than just its products, and its commitment to youth in India is strong, across the value chain, for e.g., working with young farmers or providing opportunities to entrepreneurs. Mr Patnaik gave a few examples on its engagement with youth, including through Nesternships, Nespreneur, and talent apprenticeships programmes.

Since 2020, the company has offered remote internship experiences to over 3000 graduates, allowing them to work across different units within the company and with other organizations. Particularly through the Nespreneur programme, the company has engaged with more than 100 universities, allowing them to work with young farmers throughout their value chain, reaching over 4000 farmers over the last three years.


In closing, Ms Chakraborty stressed the need for apprenticeships to be integrated into the work ecosystem. Attaching an apprenticeship to a degree can create merit and precedence for youth in India as an example for other countries to follow. Degree apprenticeships are one more step towards scaling, and what better place to do this than in India? Stay tuned for upcoming joint webinars on themes including, gender, diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and/or degree apprenticeships.

Watch the event here.