United Nations Development Programme, India (UNDP India) has been working extensively with many partners in India to facilitate an ecosystem that connects education and skills with employment and entrepreneurship. One of the key points in their agenda for inclusive growth is focused on empowering women to make informed decisions through training and last mile linkages. We spoke with Clement Chauvet, Chief, Skill and Business Development at UNDP India, to learn about their current initiatives, impact and plans for making Indian youth future-ready. Here’s the Skill Story that takes you through the journey of UNDP India in linking job seekers, young women, mentors and private sector companies hence, bringing skills and economy closer. Let’s read on:
Q: Tell us about UNDP India’s contribution to women empowerment through Disha Project
A: Disha was started 4 years ago in partnership with IKEA foundation and India Development Foundation (IDF). The objective is to give a direction (Disha means direction) and improve the lives of one million women and girls by providing an opportunity to learn marketable skills so they can find a job or start their own business. The project has taken off remarkably well after we experimented with a proof of concept, tried and tested some models. Based on the evidence, we adapted and implemented the solutions and today we have established a sustainable model of impacting 8 lakh women.
More than just a numerical target, the goal is to create scalable, replicable and sustainable solutions for private public partnerships that could have an impact on the skilling ecosystem as a whole. We work with the government and private sector, vocational training providers, industry and business associations. We emphasise on outcomes rather than output. By outcomes, I mean the actual results such as post-placement retention of jobs and sustaining and growing an enterprise.
Q: What is unique about Disha project?
A: We understood from the beginning that there is lack of information and guidance; most of the girls in school or even those out of school had no clue about their future plans, many being first generation learners. They can’t rely completely on the information coming from their family, relatives or community. It was imperative to address the information gap through career guidance and counselling that can help them make an informed decision about their future. For this purpose, we worked with various stakeholders and came up with sustainable solutions to bring about outcomes. The counselling and career guidance system especially in schools, provide information about the opportunities they have in terms of higher education or work for better decision making.
For career guidance and counselling, we worked with 11th and 12th standard students in corporation schools in Karnataka and we have been quite successful. Our programs help the students in self-discovery by knowing their aptitudes and preferences so that they can decide on the right career. The counsellors define their career paths, develop certain set of skills on the lines of employability, life skills and transferable skills that will be helpful for them for any kind of job that they would take up.
Our pursuit of linking skills with education and jobs has also been strengthened with getting the private sector on board through guest lectures and mentoring. This makes a huge difference to the students in learning how to work in the private sector.
The girls are trained to find the best employment while they are in their colleges. Internships increase their employability as it will give them some work experience and also prepare them for jobs.
Collaboration is critical to making a difference to youth employability in India! We need the right solution in terms of career guidance, employment marketplace, entrepreneurship that can be scaled up. For this, we need more people to come and work with us for achieving a greater impact.
Q: Many organizations would be interested in collaborating with your initiatives. What are the key areas for partnering UNDP India?
A: The issues that people are facing in India are very complex ranging from facing social norms to finding a job that matches one’s aspiration. So, one stakeholder alone cannot provide solutions and collaboration is much-needed. We need to collaborate with the public sector, the government and NGOs. All stakeholders should come together to connect the dots. In India, everybody is doing their bit to improve youth employability. But all these stakeholders – job seekers, the private sector, government, employers, while they are doing a great job, they don’t interact with each other. We are creating a collaborative platform that can make a difference by bringing job –seekers and the employers together through the Employment Marketplace model of Disha Programme. In other words, this is like match making between the needs and aspirations of the girls and the requirements of both the formal and informal sector.
Everyone brings something to the platform as much as they take from it. In Maharashtra and Karnataka, we are working on reviving employment exchanges that can benefit job seekers and employers through Youth Employability Service (YES) centers. This initiative has been launched to revive government-run employment exchanges in the State to provide comprehensive employment services to job seekers.
Impact of UNDP
India As of now, during the last 4 years, we have reached more than 8 lakhs girls and women through different programs like career guidance, employment marketplace, entrepreneurship, apprenticeship etc working with last mile connectivity and integrating it with the value chain. We are working in 5 states as a part of the proof of concept, in Delhi NCR, Haryana, Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka. The girls are able to make an informed decision about their career and their lives have improved with the support of Disha project. The first phase of the Disha project will be completed by the end of 2019. Looking back, we are supported by evidence to say that Disha has huge potential for much greater scale. It can really make deeper impact when it attracts more partners. Then, 8 lakhs can even become 8 crore!
Q: What are some of the initiatives in the employment space?
A: Youth Employability Service (YES) comprises setting up counselling centers that connects with employment marketplace. This is where we are seeking many partnerships with organizations who can fund them and scale it up by adopting the center. They should be able to run the centers in aspirational districts and deliver the outcomes. While creating an impact, they can also provide best practices for others to emulate.
People and organizations from the skilling ecosystem can take this solution to many districts. Corporates can also join us through their CSR projects. The proposed partnership could be programmatic where we require everyone in the ecosystem to create solutions that will benefit many through better outcome and impact. We also need partners who can fund these programs through CSR to scale it up and expand in many districts in India
Q: How is UNDP bringing about attitudinal changes among youth in India?
A: We create awareness that there are not many job creation opportunities especially in the formal sector. The society is changing quite rapidly and a lot of new opportunities are available in terms of self –employment and entrepreneurship etc. Besides informing the youth, we are able to guide them towards institutions that will give them entrepreneurship skills. We are working on how we can develop certain skills, such as 21st century skills. For instance, communication skills are critical since English is a business language in India; digital skills are critical, they should be able to work from any device, like a phone or a computer. Other skills like cognitive (problem solving, project management) and non-cognitive skills (emotional intelligence, creativity, leadership, teamwork) comprise the transferable skill sets that help in preparing the youth for jobs of the future or become entrepreneurs.
New initiatives from UNDP India to enhance youth employability
We have recently launched a new program with NSS for youth volunteering. Our aim is to catalyse a movement by strengthening the National Service Scheme (NSS) and National Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS). We’ve noticed that young people who go through the NSS are more employable than those who do not as they have the skills, particularly the non-cognitive skills, that the private sector is looking for. At present we are into research and analysis for widening the impact of this project. About 80 lakh, who are mostly dropouts, could be positively impacted through this project as they become aware of options for self-employment and entrepreneurship.