In an absorbing conversation with Thrive, Ravi Nayse, GM – Skill Development at Ambuja Cement Foundation outlines the work ACF has been doing to enable rural youth to have a prosperous future.
Thrive: How can skill development help rural households emerge from poverty?
Our data shows that rural youth often do not get the employment they aspire for and are either underemployed or in jobs not to their liking. In such situations they usually leave their jobs and return to their villages, unemployed or move to agriculture which offers only seasonal employment. Skill development then becomes essential as it focuses on enabling the youth with employable skills driven by industry needs. At ACF’s skilling institutes (SEDI), each skill training programme lasts for 3-4 months. The comprehensive education provided helps them secure entry level jobs comfortably in a salary band of Rs. 8000-10000 which can go up to Rs. 12000. This level of income enables the entire household to emerge from poverty. What we also see as a trend is that when one family member gets trained and placed, his/her siblings also get influenced to undergo skill training. With 2 or more salaried youths in a family, the income levels rise substantially, moving the family well out of the clutches of poverty.
Thrive: What are the major hurdles to skill development in rural India? How does ACF address these hurdles through its skill development programme?
Before opening a SEDI, a training needs assessment study is done to understand aspirations of youth and opportunities for employment in the region. Sometimes finding a match to these aspirations is tough. The youth may prefer to have the institute in the vicinity itself while the institute may be a fair distance away. Employment opportunities may be sparse in the region but may be available in the larger towns and cities for which relocation becomes a challenge to address.
Finding the optimal infrastructure to conduct trainings can also be challenging at times in rural regions. Internet connectivity and availability of power can at times play truant. Also, if safe and reliable transport options are scarce, getting the youth to the centres becomes a challenge. Since the context is rural, finding the right faculty to work at SEDI is not easy. To address this, a strong emphasis is laid on continuous capacity building of the training staff by mapping competencies and working on gaps through comprehensive ‘Train the trainer’ programmes run through the year.
Addressing the inferiority complex in rural youth needs to be tackled in every interaction. To address this, we showcase successful stories of other youth from the villages who have been able to shed their inhibitions and are gainfully employed. Apart from the youth, their families also need to be convinced especially where travel is involved, either to the institute or relocation for employment. Besides this, societal bottlenecks also need to be dealt with such as girls reaching home late in the evening or them wearing trousers and shirts in accordance with industry norms.
Thrive: While ACF's SEDIs offer skill training to rural youth, it is also essential to provide them with avenues for employment. How is ACF enabling this today?
Skill training and employment go hand in hand and all our trainees are provided with 100% placement assistance. From day 1, we encourage hands on training to our trainees with a singular objective to be employed. We also actively involve employers in taking guest lectures, planning exposure visits and the curriculum itself. Employers are also regularly showcased the outcome of their association with us, in terms of youth and families earning a sustainable income.
Thrive: With a significant reverse-migration to the villages that happened in the immediate wake of the lockdown, has ACF taken any steps to reintegrate them with the workforce?
During the lockdown, some of SEDI graduates, employed for a year or so, lost their jobs in the cities. While our SEDIs were physically shut, our staff remained accessible and available during this time on call. To ensure the wellbeing of all our students we organised a massive outreach to each of the 60000 + students who had graduated from our SEDIs. We also connected with local employers to employ some of the unemployed youth. Some of our partners also provided financial assistance to the self-employed youth who had been severely affected by the lockdown. In every crisis there also lies an opportunity – many returning youths enrolled themselves in training to upgrade their skills or reskill themselves allowing for better opportunities to come their way. In the context of infrastructure, the lockdown allowed us to invest in technology, including digital means to educate the youth, manage curriculum and studio classrooms.
Thrive: Can you give us a couple of examples of how families are being affected through ACF’s initiative with SEDI?
A couple of examples come readily to mind. A family in Kukras village, Kodinar with three daughters was subsisting through daily wage labour. The elder daughter fortuitously chanced upon the courses at SEDI in her region and enrolled in the GDA training course. Though demanding especially since there was an opportunity cost involved, her family was supportive and as soon as she completed her training, she was employed at a hospital with a steady income. Her 2 sisters followed suit and today, where the family earned a meagre Rs. 5000-6000 per month through daily wage labour, it has increased to Rs. 30000 per month, enabling a wonderful transition for the family.
At our centre in Chhindwara, Akilesh Vishwakarma and Mukesh Vishwakarma are brothers and on hearing about SEDI’s prospects, enrolled themselves for the ‘Private Security Guard’ training. They lived in a rented accommodation through this period as their village was 150 Kms away. Post their training both the brothers were immediately employed and worked overtime to make an additional income. Consequently, their earnings spiked to around Rs. 34000 per month most of which was sent back to their family. The family was able to pay off all their debts and now lives comfortably.
In Chirawa, Jubida who earlier worked as a housemaid enrolled at our institute for hospitality training. We worked extensively on grooming her and post her training she received a job offer from KFC. Although a vegetarian, through her sheer determination and hard work she was able to outperform many of her peers as a front desk agent. Being a single mother, the job has brought her family much needed earnings.
To invest with ACF for a partnership in Skill training of rural youth, reach out to the Head of Skilling at email@example.com