With a goal to establish 50 Skill and Entrepreneurship Institutes across India by 2020, ACF has been joining hands with like-minded partners to expand our footprint and do our bit to help address the skilling needs of the nation.
Most recently ACF signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with AU Small Finance Bank Ltd for establishing a new Skill Development Centre in Jaipur - taking the total number of SEDIs to 27. Through this centre, the skilling needs of youth in 30 nearby villages will be effectively addressed. The first batch of the centre has in fact started, with 50 students being trained in Banking Correspondence.
So what goes into the establishment of a new Skill Training Centre? It is no small feat, and to understand the complexity of the process, Mr Ajit Barad, SEDI In Charge at Ambujanagar (Kodinar) Gujarat, sheds light on the steps ACF follows in setting up a new SEDI - highlighting the fact that 'quality training' is the most integral component to ensure the success of a skill training institute and its long term sustainability.
- Identification of a good Financial Partner - with 27 SEDIs already in operation, ACF has honed a self-sustaining model for skill training, and in order to meet the enormous need and demand within the country, seeks like-minded partners to pool funds to establish new centres. There are many benefits for partners - not only do our centres make a significant impact to the lives of youth, their families and the communities they live in, but a SEDI can also be good for business. Many of our partners have found that the 'good will' they generate from within the community is priceless. A skill training institute helps build rapport and solid relationships within the community, and enables partners to understand the values and nuances of a community - all valuable outcomes that help support the growth of their business, whilst giving back to the community in a positive way.
- Skills Need Analysis - It is necessary to conduct a detailed analysis of industry and trade in the areas, along with gaining an understanding of the youth mindset and their abilities. What interests do they have? Parallelly we need to identify industries for opportunities for placement and employment. What opportunities are available to them post training? The idea is to find a match of both youth demand for courses and employer demand for skills and employees. Sometimes youth are not interested in a course because they don't have the proper information or education on the trade. For example, once whilst doing an impact study for nursing training - there were very few youth who were willing to explore this field. But there was a huge industry requirement for nurses in the area and lots of career opportunity. Initially we struggled to place students in the course, but once we had a few good success stories, we promoted them and their stories, the opportunities available to others - and it is now the biggest trade in Ambujanagar! We have to take a judgement call on whether to initially offer that trade, and in the end we made the right decision.
- Identification of the Right Location & Building - identifying the right location is an essential element in the success of any SEDI. If it is in the right position in the community, a convenient place, you will succeed. It must be located close to a bus stand or other transport hub, so that students can easily come and go from their villages and homes to the centre. Secondly there is a need to find a large building, for example, 10,000sqft area (for full-fledged centre). It is vital to have space, good amenities and quality infrastructure - it helps with student mobilisation in the long run, as young people use word of mouth to spread the word on the quality of the centre.
- Trade Equipment & Fitout - We need to fit out the interior of the centre with the necessary tools and technical instruments/equipment/machinery to meet the training requirements for the trades chosen at the centre. Secondly, it's necessary to include safety infrastructure to ensure the safety of students, and to inculcate safety as a core value and approach to skills in the workplace. Simultaneously we find good, experienced trainers to deliver the courses - this is critical of course! Administration and Accounts staff are also required. We also need to fit out the centre with proper furniture and assets to ensure there is an impression made for prospective students - this is important to make an impact in the minds of the youth who in this day and age, are quite sensitive and responsive to these things.
- Mobilisation of Youth - Whilst all this is going on, we do community mobilisation to generate students for the new centre. This involves a variety of strategies which really help us enter a new area. Firstly, we hold Night Meetings where we get large numbers of youth attending, because they are otherwise going for 'daily wages' work during the day. Here families and youth come together, and our field officers go door to door to promote the meeting, where information on SEDI and its courses is disseminated. It also provides a good opportunity for probing to understand the issues of youth and what challenges they have in going for skill training. Secondly, we have door to door meetings where we ask one girl in a community to gather her friends (i.e. 10-11 friends) and then our community mobilisers visit, share information and ask about the goals of the youth to understand what they aspire for. The very next day we organise a workshop at our centre, so they can come and see the centre for themselves and learn more details on each course. We do not take a 'marketing style' approach at SEDI - our approach is to support youth and help them meet their goals. We make it all about them. And the word of mouth generated from this does the rest. Within 1 - 1.5 months using these strategies we can form a good batch of 20-25 students.
- Knowledge & Placement Partners - Once a SEDI is in place and we have good amenities, staff and students, we then shift our focus to placement. This is a 1-1.5-month task. If our students are trained well, including developing good soft skills, they will get a job - placement will come. In order to find Placement Partners we invite employers to come and visit the centre and motivate students for their jobs. This generates excitement and enthusiasm among students and is also good for employers in developing a solid human resource pipeline for their businesses - a common challenge. As per our surveys in each and every sector, there is a huge requirement for good skills and employees. Whilst placement is not so difficult, retention is a challenge - and we therefore provide holistic training to students to help tackle this. We highlight possible challenges, develop soft skills, help manage expectations, and interact with parents also - inviting them to discuss their child development, growth and career 3 times during training. We also facilitate 'group placement' so that graduates are placed in jobs with batch mates to help them support one another and combat things like 'loneliness'. Our handholding program supports graduates for 2 years post their training to help them overcome the challenges they face in their new jobs and careers.
- Training & NSDC Affiliation - We start the first batches of training and then we apply to the NSDC to gain formal affiliation. This is an online process where we input a variety of data and get a centre ID. Then the NSDC comes to take an assessment of the centre and the training. This affiliation aids credibility of the SEDI centre.
- Centre Progress Assessment - In order to assess the success of a SEDI after it has been operating for a few years, along with the quality of training delivered and outcomes for students, ACF undertakes a number of reviews and assessments. Firstly, we track our graduates from SEDI for the past few years to monitor their salary levels, career growth, retention rates and feedback from employers on graduate quality, to highlight areas for course correction at the centre. For example, the integration of new machine skills or technology skills into the curriculum, at the request of employers. Secondly, we go into the community to take feedback from Community Advisory Committee's to identify areas to be addressed. For example, there is a need to promote 'Tobacco Free' training for tobacco control among youth. We integrated this into our curriculum and culture at SEDI with great success. We also discuss with trainers and partners issues and challenges that need to be taken into consideration.
- Course Correction, Quality Assurance & Curriculum Development - We also conduct monthly reviews of soft skills training to assess the value of this type of training and to adjust the methodology of delivery for optimum results. We conduct quarterly and 6monthly reviews of curriculum and training delivery and have a strong monitoring system in place to support this, and where necessary we undertake course correction to continually improve what we do.
- Expansion of Offerings - After a SEDI has been established for a few years and stabilised, there is a need to develop an expansion strategy. We assess optimum utilisation of the centre to ensure that the maximum number of youth are being trained. For example when we first started in Kodinar, we ran one shift from 9-6pm, but then we looked to start training in 3 shifts to optimise the number of students - this helped us to take our numbers from 700 to 1000 students in a short period of time. We also keep a finger on the pulse in the community and among industry to see if there is any need for new trades and courses. If we have a good placement opportunity for a new trade, and there is a community mindset for that, then we look to adopt it. Additionally, we also look to expand existing courses. For example, our placement partners had a requirement for new AC refrigerator operator skills - we simply added a new component into the existing Electronics trade to meet the market requirement, adding a new skill and doing it cost effectively without having to add a completely new course for that.
What are the key features for ensuring a successful skill training centre? Ajit Barad stresses the need for quality training and quality placement. This is the key - if you have this, the community comes to trust you and believe in you. If you focus on this, the community believes that the institute will never do anything wrong by them. Where so many other skill training providers focus on fancy infrastructure and the use of technology, we believe that our personal approach in the pre and post training phase with students, helps them to gain the most from their skill training experience and sets them up for strong careers, robust livelihoods and success in the workplace.----------------------------------------------
|Ajit Barad - SEDI In Charge - Ambujanagar, Gujarat|