A young boy, 21-year old (let’s call him Bhima), who has recently migrated to a town, finally gets to work as a welder in a small workshop. After dropping out of school, Bhima learned welding from his father – a part-time welder. Six months later, Bhima’s employer fires him for not being an efficient resource.
Meanwhile, in some other city, Savita is working as a retail assistant in a well-known supermarket store. Savita is often made fun of her poor spoken English by her co-workers. She fumbles when interacting with customers that affects products’ sale. Her manager gives her a last chance to improve her English and soft skills. Due to lack of guidance, disheartened Savita quits her job.
These are the typical situations faced by a large section of youth, mostly belonging to underprivileged families – of migrants, marginal farmers or labourers. These youngsters are often minimally educated school dropouts. But like the other young and enthusiastic lot, they often have dreams for a bright future and a prosperous life. They aspire to work in offices, big companies and cities but lack vocational skills required to enter an industry.
A large section of our youth needs proper skilling to make them job-ready. With the fact that only two percent of India’s workforce is skilled and about 93% of the unskilled are labourers in the unorganised sector; skill training is amongst top priorities of development sector. It is encouraging to see our government take up large scale initiatives for youth skill development and the other sectors fully supporting this. The question, however, remains “Are we doing enough to ensure a sustainable livelihood source for our youth who has never been exposed to the multifaceted vocational world?”
It is unfortunate that skill development training, as of today, is taken in its literal sense. While skilling for a trade does build the foundation of any training program, it cannot be seen in isolation. What after the person learns the skill? Is the trainee acquainted with the workplace dynamics? Can she handle the tremendous pressure of meeting deadlines? Is she ready to migrate to other places for job opportunities?
In most cases, the answer is ‘No’.
India is being seen as a rising economy and the government hopes to create 100 million new jobs by 2022. This makes quality skill training all the more important. We urgently need to design programs with a holistic approach and comprehensively weave in technical skills, soft skills and life skills, without which, no training program will create the desired impact.
With the workplace getting increasingly competitive, mere technical skills will not suffice the requirement. In fact, even for the technical skills, the emphasis should be more on the practical aspects and on-the-job training rather than the classroom training.
Soft skills will enhance the personality of the trainees and instil confidence when they begin dealing with the changes and challenges at work. Life-skills, on the other hand, will prepare the trainee to deal with different setback and changes so that he keeps himself emotionally and practically strong. Financial literacy would further help the trainee to stay sound economically.
An important aspect is also the duration of skill training programmes. An institute might have the best curriculum and a fantastic set of trainers and yet may fail to check its trainees dropping out or struggling to continue with their jobs! A myopic view to skill building programs is quite likely to falter with such challenges. Therefore, a well-thought, meticulous pre- and post-training phase should be non-negotiable when it comes to skill training. While the pre-training phase will help youth assess themselves, understand the trade and job-related expectations; the post-training phase will provide continued support to them when they actually step into the real ‘job world’ and start dealing with the nuances associated with it. Either of these phases, if skipped or implemented sloppily will hamper the long-term success.
And finally, there is a huge scope to harness the power of collaboration. As skill development has now become a national agenda, increasing number of organisations and agencies have initiated related projects. However, to create a bigger impact, it is necessary that organisations pool in resources, share expertise and collaborate to generate a robust system for skilling India. Effective partnerships will play a key role in building a cadre of a young workforce that confidently thrives at the workplace as well as in life.
One skilled and confident youth holds the power to influence several others. The journey has begun. A strategic and collaborative approach will definitely result in glorious days where brigades of youngsters like Bhima and Savita will become inspirations and not liabilities.
Pearl Tiwari is the Director and Chief Executive of Ambuja Cement Foundation, the CSR wing of Ambuja Cements Limited. In a professional career spanning over 30 years, Pearl has been associated with the not-for-profit, educational and corporate sectors. Pearl joined Ambuja in 2000 and ever since has been at the helm of nurturing the Ambuja Cement Foundation that has expanded from a fledging team to nearly 400 development professionals, with a pan-India presence active in 21 locations across 11 states.
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The CSR Journal Team