AU Foundation, the CSR arm of AU Small Finance Bank,cemented a partnership with ACF in 2018 to set up an AU Skills Academy in Jaipur Rajasthan, to train needy, underprivileged youth - transforming them into industry and job-ready individuals. The success of the centre saw the launch of a second centre under this partnership in Jaipur in June 2019, offering new courses such as Retail Sales Associate, Hospitality & Tourism, Customer Relationship Management and Office Assistant.
Thrivecaught up with Akshay Gujar, Lead (CSR & Sports) AU Small Finance Bank Limited for his thoughts on this partnership with ACF. "This partnership came about at a time when the bank was looking for an implementing partner who could bring to fruition their CSR vision - to select youth from needy families, provide them with industry-relevant livelihood training and train them to be successful professionals, as opposed to merely preparing them for their first job interviews.
"The term 'needy youth ' generally implies a youth from a financial distressed family background. However AU Foundation defines 'needy' as someone not merely financially distressed but someone who could even be 'communications skills needy' or needy in other key skills required for a successful career." Akshay Gujar said. As a result, ACF and AU Small Finance Bank developed a specific curriculum to include, in addition to specific vocational skills, all the essential career building skills such as communication, presentation, language proficiency, personality development, and personal grooming.
When asked what factors they considered in selecting an implementing partner. Mr Gujar replied, "We had seen the work that ACF had done with the Rajasthan Government under skill development and we were quite impressed. But the moment we knew ACF was the right partner for us, was when all other potential implementing partners spoke about the awards and accolades they had garnered, ACF was the only partner who spoke about the awards and recognition their trainees had won. It was at that moment that we knew that ACF was the best fit with our CSR vision." He said. "We were really impressed with the way that ACF had a genuine concern for the success of their trainees and had a much larger vision for the youth of this country."
Of course the success of any CSR or skill training initiative lies in the results and impacts achieved. Up until November 2019 a total of 375 youth have been trained, with another 125 trainees presently under training. HDFC Bank, Equitas Small finance Bank, Infosys, Genpact, Diggi Palace, Hotel Mansingh, Reliance Digital, Lifestyle, Max are just some of the corporate houses where trained candidates have been successfully placed, drawing salaries ranging from Rs. 120,000 - Rs.180,000 per annum. The target is to train 1130 candidates up until May 2020.
"The results that have be achieved in this short duration are very impressive. Over and above the data and evidence of impact, we are really happy to witness a transformation in the students trained at this academy. It is very heartwarming to see how youth, particularly girls who are often seen as 'liabilities' for their families, have become 'assets' post the completion of the course. The financial contribution these youth are able to make to their families not only boosts their status within the family, but their self-esteem and self-confidence as well." Mr Gujar said.
Akshay Gujar shared a heartwarming story of a young girl who had lost her father and had to bear the entire financial responsibility for her family. Caught in a trap of low paying jobs, she sought training at the SEDI, with the hope of a better paying job. However enrolling at the academy meant giving up her current job and foregoing a monthly income for the duration of the course. It was a very tough decision for this young girl but she took the plunge nevertheless.
Post her course she was placed at one of the leading bakeries in Jaipur with a starting salary of Rs15,000 per month. Not only was this monthly income far beyond her expectations, at one event that she had to cater at, she received a tip of Rs 6000. Having never seen such a princely amount in her life, she could not contain her joy and rushed to the centre where she had received training, to share her achievement with the centre staff and other trainees. The centre training, and exposure she has received at her workplace, has transformed this once insecure young girl into a fine, confident young woman. "It is these personal stories of transformation that puts a high value on our partnership with ACF."
"As with any partnership, there is always scope for improvement," Akshay added "and in ACF we have found a partner who is open to our feedback and suggestions for improvement. We truly respect the 'DNA' of Ambuja Cement Foundation and would like to see more of their long serving staff members who have absorbed the ethos and culture of ACF, be a part of the AU Skills Academies being run under this partnership." He said.
AU Skills Finance is just one of multiple corporate partners who have enabled ACF's Skill & Entrepreneurship Development Institutes to grow from just 1 centre in 2006 to 33 centres in 2019. Other corporate partners include HDFC Bank, Hindustan Zinc Ltd, IndusInd Bank among others.