Unnati Centre in Bangalore trains rural youth for urban jobs by imparting soft skills.
By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
India is in the throes of rural to urban transformation. Sixty per cent of India’s GDP is coming from economic activity in towns and cities. Urban areas are seeing a massive influx of youth seeking jobs and opportunities for livelihood. The nation faces a massive task of accommodating these youth whose skills, attitudes and behavior need to be brought in sync with needs of the industries and services operating out of the cities and urban clusters.
Not much attention has been paid towards bringing about this transformation at the human resources level. For instance, the urban areas would require people with multilingual skills with emphasis on working knowledge of English and greater level of tolerance for multicultural ethos. Services have become a major contributor for the GDP. Be it hotels, banks, hospitals, diagnostic labs, cabs, maintenance and spares, the individuals required for the sector would need to have linguistic sophistry to deal with a wide variety of clientele.
Unnati, a Bangalore-based NGO has stepped into this area with short-term courses that impact vocational training to youths from rural and mofussil areas and place them in manufacturing or service organizations which required them. Unnati started its work in 2003 and has so far trained over 4,500 youths, both boys and girls. Trained as admin assistants, salespersons for retail counters, beauticians and paramedics, for hotels and hospitals and as security personnel, the youth land up jobs that could yield them a monthly pay packet ranging from Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 12,000. They were also imparted with soft skills such as handling phone inquiries, following workplace protocol, dealing with stressful social situations and criticism, hygiene and dress, refusal skills, money and time management, and sex and gender issues.
According to Mr. Ramesh Swamy, Unnati’s live wire trustee, link-up with industries and businesses have stood him in good stead and there is hundred per cent placement of his trainees. Anand Chalawadi from Muddebihal (Bijapur) who was trained at Unnati, has landed up a job as smart card operator in Freshworld Farm on Wheels. Thippeswamy from Hosakote was selected as Customer Service Associate by Firstsource Solutions Ltd in Chennai. Asha from Raichur, was offered a position as Guest Service Associate in R. P. Sanjiv Goenka Group. Sachin, a graduate who was earning Rs. 6,000 in Shimoga, received training at Unnati and is now employed with Titan Eye Wear in Bangalore on Rs. 13,000 monthly pay. The list is endless. The youth generally receive a pay packet ranging from Rs. 7,000 to 12,000.
Ramesh says, the aspirants for his 70-day training need not be literate, although over 50 per cent of the trainees currently are graduates. “We insist on their being poor and should be between 19 and 25 years of age. The age limit is extended upto 35 in case of women”, he says. The training is totally free and outstation candidates are even provided stay and food on campus. The local candidates are given bus passes to commute from home daily. There are no holidays, not even on Sunday. Absence from classes is viewed seriously and absentees for more than a day are sent home. While candidates from neighboring states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh are aplenty, some have even come from Uttrakhand, Punjab and Nagaland. He however complains that few Muslims avail of the facility. I could find only two Muslim girls in the batch being trained currently last fortnight.
Unnati arranges for on-campus placement at the conclusion of the training. Ramesh claims that even illiterate trainees can converse in English at the end of the course. English lessons would prepare the trainees in basic affairs as self-introduction, greeting visitors, pairing and bonding, making a to-do list, describing an event or recounting an experience and countless such significant aspects which bypass our educational system. Harish Kumar, a former trainee from Unnati, who now works for TCS, says, “What the 15 years of Government education could not teach me, I learnt in 70 days at the Unnati.”
Unnati plans to prepare a million trained hands for the jobs coming up in cities across the country in the next decade. Having trained 40 batches of youths in the last 10 years, Unnati is currently expanding. It has already set up two centres in Delhi, one each in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Raichur and Gurgaon. With 13 salaried teachers, it has 30 members on the guest faculty who offer their services on voluntary basis. According to Swamy, the centre incurs Rs. 12,000 on a trainee on the 70-day training. Though it does not follow a policy of sponsorship of trainees, it has a body of 450 regular donors on its list who keep the work going.
While the Unnati initiative could be lauded, we also need to question as to why our educational system does not prepare our youth in order to suit the urban jobs and why they remain square pegs for round holes.
The Unnati is run by SGBS Trust. Candidates from anywhere in the country can join the training course. The next course would start from November 30 and further on from February 8, 2014. It can be contacted at: Unnati Centre, Temple Road, NGEF Layout, Sadanand Nagar, Bangalore-560038, Ph: 080-25384642, 25384443, email: [email protected], website: unnatiblr.org