Changing lives

Twenty-two-year-old Ajay Yadav, who stays at a transit camp in Lower Parel, never imagined that he would be working as an accountant in a multi-national company. Till a couple of months ago, the son of a mill worker was attending computer classes but was unsure whether that will help him land a job. But today the BCom graduate not only has a cushy job but is also brimming with confidence. Things changed for Yadav after he enrolled himself in Tamanna, a one-of-its-kind skill development and training programme, earlier this year. It has been initiated by The Skills Academy, an entrepreneurial venture by former Genpact CEO, Pramod Bhasin and Pia Singh, Director, DLF India and Vandana Foundation, a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation founded by former DGP and Police Commissioner AN Roy and his daughter Saumya.

Ex-top cop A N Roy with his daughter Saumya at the Vandana Foundation office in Bandra (East). P/Abhinav Kocharekar

The initiative aims to impart skills to undereducated as well as educated individuals hailing from poor backgrounds and enable them to be financially independent. Tamanna kick started its activities with a six-month free training programme last December. The programme, which concluded in February 2013, was attended by 96 students hailing from Bhandup, Nahur, Kurla, Mankhurd, Dharavi, Dongri and Bhendi Bazaar. All of them are now employed with reputed companies such as Serco, Reliance, KFC, Café Coffee Day and Pizza Hut. The training involved learning English, computer skills, typing and grooming classes, apartfrom workshops on grooming and dining etiquette.

Chairman, Pramod Bhasin, The Skills Academy, says, “There is a huge need for skill development in India. With Tamanna we aim to provide employable skills to youngsters i e. impart skills that will equip job aspirants with the right capabilities to be employed. In the near future, we plan to work across industries and all over the country.”

The idea, AN Roy says, is to tackle two problems at the same time — poverty and unemployment. “India has a huge population of young, educated, unemployed individuals. If we can manage to give a job to even one person, then he or she can take care of their entire family,” says Roy. Since its inception in 2010, Roy’s Vandana Foundation has been working closely with slum dwellers and wives of farmers who committed suicide in Yavatamal and Wardha, and providing them with low-interest micro-lending facilities to make them financially independent. After Roy learnt that Bhasin was looking at setting up a skill development programme that assured employment to youngsters, he approached him to kick start a pilot project in Mumbai. “Often, the women would request us to give jobs to their children. We thought Tamanna was a good way to make these youngsters independent and also enable us to reach out to minority pockets of the city.”

While Vandana Foundation identified and supplied students, The Skills Academy trained them. Roy’s daughter Saumya played an active role in organising meetings with slum kids and mobilising them to join Tamanna. Though she confesses that the task was replete with challenges, she admits the toughest part was to inculcate a sense of discipline in the youngsters. “As most of their families had their own business and were never a part of an organised work environment, the youngsters didn’t feel the need to attend the course regularly. Whenever they didn’t come to the class, we would visit their homes to investigate the reason. Most often, it was a lack of commitment and discipline. It was very difficult to inculcate a sense of discipline in them,” she says.

In order to make the training programme more interesting, talent-hunt shows, potluck parties and mock interview sessions were held. Roy says, “These exercises helped them understand how to work in a team.” Headhunters came to the campus and recruited several youngsters after a series of interviews.

Enthused by the first run, The Skills Academy and Vandana Foundation are organising the second session that will commence from April 15. In the long run, the programme will expand all over Maharashtra. Quiz Saumya about the lessons she and her co-organisers have learnt and she says, “When we asked the youngsters what kind of jobs they wanted to do, all of them responded in unison, ‘we want an office job.’ They didn’t know the difference between an office boy and a manager. When they got a job, some of them couldn’t cope with the pressure. Now we want to attune the training to their demands and ensure that they become tough and are able to face real-life situations.”  

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