“What it is that I like about collaborating with Ambuja Foundation? They are hungry for more! They are agile and flexible, and we both share our hunger to do things differently and aspire for more.”
Thrive caught up with Head of CSR at Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL), Ms. Anupam Nidhi on the strong partnership formed between HZL and Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF).
In 2018-19 the mining magnate, Hindustan Zinc Ltd was exploring possible partners to help set up skilling centres on the outskirts of HZL mines at Dariba & Agucha, when Mr. Abhay Gautam from Hindustan Zinc came across one of Ambuja’s SEDI centres in Rabriyawas. “We had problems in our locations with a high skill gap leading to unemployment and limited opportunities for youth. But when we saw the type of center ACF’s SEDI had developed - the infrastructure and the quality of the skilling classes taking place, we could see the manner in which future of youth were being transformed.” she said. “That was the tipping point and we invited Ambuja Foundation to work with us on setting up and running two similar centres for us.”
The collaborative partnership has worked well, with both partners working jointly to develop, grow and strengthen the program. “Co-creation has been embedded in our way of life at HZL. We like working with like-minded people, those with the thirst to experiment along with us rather than being just an implementing entity. We over the years have experimented with loads of ideas and scaled those across our implementing locations.” She said.
“We believe in partnerships. We align with government and its programs, and work with them instead of creating silos – by putting in efforts to fill the gaps, if any. It’s requires collaboration and teams in action across the various stakeholder base to achieve the sustainable development goals. There arises a need to create frugal, scalable, replicable methods, which could be showcased as models for others including the government to emulate and replicate across for higher reach and multiplier impact. This further gains momentum by using partners like Ambuja Foundation.” Anupam said.
Ambuja Foundation is just one of the three implementing skilling partners at HZL – a strategy that has worked well for the natural resources giant. For HZL, CSR partnerships are not about offloading work, but more about bringing in like-minded people with key expertise to add value. “We have been working on societal development. We need scale and speed for which a catalyst organization with technical expertise is beneficial especially when it comes to skill development. To deliver the best of services to society we needed to partner with a subject matter expertise organization. The model has worked well for us till date.” She said.
With a strong and valued presence in Rajasthan, and significantly in rural and remote areas, skilling and livelihoods are natural programmatic focus areas for Hindustan Zinc apart from other areas. “Because we are located in rural areas, employment is meagre in terms of quality of opportunities. Agriculture and other menial jobs are the only source of livelihoods”.
“What we love about our Zinc Kaushal Centers with Ambuja Foundation, is that the actual value add is not just the individual being groomed and employed, whereas, the entire family being impacted as a result. Further its sustenance and continued connect has made a huge difference. “My colleagues work extensively with the Ambuja Foundation team and have over the period of time designed a model which is sustainable both horizontally and in depth”.
At our 4 Zinc Kaushal Centers, we track boys and girls, ensure they go to the next level, coach and counsel them, bring in technology, build aspirations, work with the differently-abled and women who are small entrepreneurs – helping them breaking their barriers to excel. These joint endeavours and “Never say No” spirit of ours as a team is what we are proud of.” We have also expanded our trades, and the number of trainees and centres – that is the hunger and appetite we both have to make our centres excel. Over time we have expanded and tried new trades as well”.
Of course, the initiative has not been without challenges. “Two challenges we have been struggling to include the ability of these youngsters and their families to go beyond their villages– traveling to other locations to work and going out of their comfort zones.” Anupam said. “With extensive counselling we have been able to encourage that, and now we have strong role models in our communities, which enabled many more to experience states like Telangana or Madhya Pradesh to work,” she said.
“The second challenge is that, being high paymasters at HZL, people still look to us for employment and leave other good jobs to do so. We work hard at ensuring retention for our trainee graduates and are proud of our retention rates which are in the range of 85-87% as openings are limited,” Ms. Anupam said.
Keeping an eye on the future, Anupam said they have big plans for their skilling initiatives.
“When it comes to the skilling side of things, whilst we want to expand our methodology in terms of trades, we also want to expand in terms of inclusion – bringing in the 3rd 4th and 5th gender, and people from other marginalized groups”.
“Additionally, the emphasis in the National Education Policy on pre-vocationalisation has us working in this vein - giving 11th & 12th Grade students exposure by bringing them to our centres to get groomed and understand what is available to them for their future. This is an important area we want to expand into,” Ms. Anupam said.
It is certainly an exciting time for the partnership as both giants look to possibilities in the future, for the benefit of the rural youth and towards strengthening rural economy that each organization is clearly committed to.