Creating a positive impact on over four million people across 15 states in the country, The/Nudge Foundation continues to influence the lives of many youth. In 2015, to help the youth from poor and underprivileged families, The/Nudge set up its flagship Gurukul program that offers holistic development along with training in several skills. Our team interacted with Saurabh Adeeb, Head, Programs, and Initiatives at The/Nudge Foundation, to understand their journey, the innovative approach at the Gurukul, training and placement opportunities, and more. Here we go with the Skill Story!
The idea of The/Nudge Foundation
Our organizational purpose is poverty alleviation and we started looking at ways in which we can make a difference to the lives of underprivileged youth. India has a demographic dividend and we are yet to realize its potential. With over 180 million people joining the workforce in the next 15 years, it was widely accepted that India is at the cusp of an exciting opportunity.
The government is promoting skill development and vocational training, through various programs like PMKVY, DDUGKY, etc. All these government and private skill programs are trying to address the skill gap and improve youth employability. While this addresses a critical vocational skill gap, there is a critical need for behavioural and mindset changes to sustainably improve the lives of India’s youth.
We evaluated these deeper issues that hinder our progress by making youth employable. First, 50% of youth do not have access to quality education, thus creating a literacy-gap. Second, most of them have lost what is referred to as the birth lottery, being born into impoverished families and circumstances that lack basic facilities, and do not allow them to develop a growth mindset, thus creating a life skills gap. All these circumstances make it almost impossible for youth to find a job that will help them break out of the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
In order to address poverty through skill development, we needed a program that focused not only on vocational and job skills but also on learning and life skills. We needed to impact the youth at three separate levels – skills, knowledge, and mindsets – for them to have a shot at escaping from poverty sustainably. That’s why we designed an intensive, three month fully residential training program focused on rural youth from marginalized communities. The reason we chose a residential model is that we needed to address and change the mindset, and this required a controlled environment insulated from external influences. And thus, started the journey of The/Nudge Foundation.
Gurukul program from The/Nudge Foundation
In 2015, we launched our skill development program known as the Gurukul which offered the Program in Life Management with a vocational specialization. We started with a batch of 46 students, and have now graduated over 6000 youth as of today and counting. Every student who wanted a job among these has been placed in their choice of work in formal employment, improving their economic status, and supporting their families.
Though the learning and moulding of the students take place during the program, the process for these interventions starts much earlier. We use certain filters during mobilisation or admission process. The first two filters that we use are need and motivation. The need is obvious. But we look for students who are underprivileged and would be unable to afford the program themselves. Motivation is another critical factor because unless someone intrinsically desires to do better with their lives, it is difficult to change someone’s mind and behaviour. The third filter is education. Ideally, this is not a filter that The/Nudge Foundation or the Gurukul would want to consider. However, employers want a skilled workforce with certain educational qualifications, making it a factor we need to consider for placements. The fourth filter is the basic cognitive ability to ensure that students are able to comprehend and benefit from the intense learning each student is exposed to.
Skills offered in the Gurukul
Our skilling programs are based on three foundations; the Economic Foundation, the Learning Foundation, and the Life Foundation.
Under the economic (vocational) foundation, Gurukuls offer courses on Beauty and Wellness, Customer Service (Retail, BFSI, IT&ITeS), Electrical Works, and Plumbing. The choice of the vocational skills offered is a carefully curated function of youth aspiration, market absorption, growth prospects/potential for upward mobility, trainability in 3 months, scalability, high job density, etc.
Under the learning foundation, we cover English, numeracy, digital literacy along developing a mindset to learn. This is an important aspect of the Gurukul, as we want students to continue learning throughout their career and life, not just during training.
Related Article: The/Nudge launches Centre for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship – Read More: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/the-nudge-skill-development/
Under the life foundation, we cover both hard and soft skills. Hard skills include financial literacy, health, and interview preparation, whereas soft skills are behavioural aspects, ethics, decision- making, etiquette, and communication. To build good habits like discipline and teamwork among students, we implement an innovative self-managed behaviour management system called the Karma Point system. The system uses a virtual currency that rewards positive behaviour with extra points and penalizes non-appreciable behaviour by deduction. Students who score the highest karma points are recognized at the graduation ceremony.
The overall curriculum design is modular in nature, which allows us to plug-and-play the required modules based on need and baseline of a class, and the requirement for a livelihood. The training activity goes on for 90 days.
The idea here is to make youth life-ready, not just job-ready. We want students to look beyond the job and be prepared to handle challenging situations in all aspects of life. That is why the Gurukul offers what we refer to as Program in Life Management with a specialisation in a vocational skill.
We have a dedicated placement cell at the Gurukul and have an open placement model. It is not just the employer, but also the student who gets to choose her future place of work. Every student who opts in for job placement is connected with potential employers, with whom interviews are scheduled and other processes are taken forward. We have a 100% placement record to date. Our graduates also display far more grit than other graduates from similar residential skilling programs, as evidence by our 3-month in-job retention rates.
We also have an alumni support system called Lifeguard, where we provide life-long support to help our graduates navigate routine life shocks (career, health, housing, finance) and stay out of poverty sustainably. It employs a combination of human and tech-leveraged support system for alumni. Any alumnus can reach us 24×7 on a toll-free helpline that generates and resolves tickets in a timely manner.