New Delhi: The Finance Ministry has recommended the railways restart a 94-year-old apprenticeship scheme, which was discontinued in 2015, to "catch the talent young" and tailor them to meet the requirements of the rail transport sector.
The Special Class Railway Apprentice (SCRA) programme was conceived in 1927 under which candidates were selected by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to train in the undergraduate program in mechanical engineering at the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Jamalpur.
The scheme was discontinued in 2015.
In its report on the rationalisation of railways, the Finance Ministry has recommended the Railway Ministry reintroduce the programme, which involves hands-on training in the specialised field of technology used in the railways.
The proposal is part of a report from the Finance Ministry which has made a slew of recommendations including the merger of rail PSUs and also of IT organisations like RailTel, CRIS and IRCTC into one entity.
The report has also recommended the streamlining of the Railway Board and a review of noncore activities like running schools, hospitals catering -- most of which have been recommended by the Bibek Debroy Committee earlier.
The report prepared by the Finance Ministry's principal economic advisor has recommended the apprenticeship scheme be reintroduced in the railways at the National Rail and Transportation Institute (NRTI), Varodara.
Explaining the rationale behind its recommendation, the finance ministry has said the present practice of taking graduates from regular academic institutions and spending resources to retrain them in rail-specific technology leads to a "drain of industry resources" as well as delays the induction of such specialised manpower.
Stating that the railways require specialised training and skills beyond what is part of a regular classroom graduation program offered by normal academic institutes, the report suggested it is imperative to re-introduce the apprenticeship scheme which involves hands-on training in the specialised field of technology used in railways.
"The report has proposed that NRTI should certify apprenticeship scheme on similar lines of the National Defence Academy and Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology.
"Under the scheme, shortlisted (UPSC to conduct separate examination) school graduates (Class 12 students) will be offered structured tech and diploma level programs where the course curriculum is suitably tailored to meet the requirements of the rail transport sector," the report said.
"This will help us catch the talent young and provide them specialised training. Over time, some of the country's foremost rail and transportation experts will be produced by NRTI," the report said.
Various committees including the Bibek Debroy Committee have highlighted the advantages of the apprenticeship scheme, even recommending that the SCRA route not be confined to the mechanical department only but extended to all departments of railways.
While it is not clear if the railways would restart the scheme in the near future, when it was much sought after by students.
Between 2007 and 2014, a total of 8,02,137 candidates had appeared in the competitive examination conducted by the UPSC for filling 318 SCRA vacancies.
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