There are students like Kajal, who sometimes, mortgage their family property to get a degree, in a system where 93% of graduates are considered unemployable. They end up getting a degree but sometimes lose their land without any chances of getting a job. This also reflects on the disconnect between education and jobs since formal learning does not address the needs of the industry. Most education programs not only rip the students off the money but also deny them an opportunity to improve their lives. At the same time, employers are left with little choices and end up training the recruits themselves.
In this scenario, it is imperative to realize that higher education can be seen as an instrument to help people transition into high growth careers and create a more inclusive society. There should be an equitable way to promote higher education to one and all by reaching out to the farthest of the corner, from the students of low-income communities to socially backward communities, students with HIV+, transgenders, differently-abled and others.
To address this disparity, Abhishek Gupta, CEO, NavGurukul joined hands with Rishabh Verma and developed an employability program that empowers aspiring students like Kajal. An alumnus of IIT, Delhi, Abhishek Gupta, moved to the social sector after co-founding two other start-ups. While working with the Education department of Delhi government, he met a lot of students who were doing academically well in schools but didn’t have access to good high paying jobs. This made him realize the pathetic condition of certain students who cannot afford quality education and how IT skill-based training could transform their lives.
Skilling students in software engineering to help them get a well-paying job
“In a country where average daily income is just about Rs.100 per hour, there are umpteen number of jobs where people can earn twice or thrice of that in an hour. We have taken up a very complex problem and are solving it in a small setup, yet being highly aware of what will scale and what will not. While our numbers are small, our path is quickly destined to be reaching bigger numbers.” Abhishek Gupta
Emphasizing the need for employability enhancement, Abhishek Gupta says,“our college system is not only broken, but rigged to favour a few – either who can pay or have the ability to be in top 1%. This made me think about an innovative employability program. I met Rishabh and together we decided to start NavGurukul from a very simple question – “can students come together, acquire a high paying skill like Software Engineering, and get a good paying job?”
From there, they have created a model enabling young individuals to pursue careers of their choice. At present, they have established two fully-residential campuses in Bangalore (for girls) and Dharamsala (for boys) where they offer a one year program for low income communities and make them Software Engineers. Over 100+ students are learning Software Engineering in these residential campuses. The model is unique where there are no teachers and no exams. Students manage both the campus and their learning with very little interventions by the team and pay back their fees once they get a job. In two years of operation, NavGurukul has received about Rs. 2 crores in funding.
NavGurukul’s training and placement model
NavGurukul gives special training to students who have little understanding of English and Maths. This enables them to compete with students who could afford four years of college education. Other than learning coding skills, students learn very important life skills and observe to understand themselves and their communities better. The program has a strong component on understanding sexual harassment, mental health, homosexuality, and other issues which are usually ignored by the traditional education system. The students participate in excursions like eco-construction, agriculture and teaching to connect even more strongly to their roots and take pride in using their hands.
Their first batch had 80% placements in Software Engineering jobs in start ups earning 20,000 INR to 70,000 INR. Rest of the students who couldn’t learn Software Engineering well are working as data entry operators.
NavGurukul brings in fresh energy and a unique approach in solving problems in the non-profit sector. It has truly democratized higher education, enabling young people to pursue careers of their choice. Their programs are benefitting many students who are otherwise neglected of quality education. Acknowledging the support from UnLtd India, Abhishek says, “UnLtd was the crucial link between the non-profit sector and us, since we had little or no exposure to non-profits before we started NavGurukul. UnLtd also introduced us to some key people who are an important part of NavGurukul family – Accenture being one of them.”