Soon after the pandemic began in early 2020, a global economic crisis followed. Unemployment emerged as one of the major outcomes of the pandemic. Many industries suffered tremendously, followed by mass lay-offs. The unorganised sector has undergone a huge setback as well. In this difficult situation, Smile Foundation’s STeP initiative has stepped up and adapted itself to the changing economic and unemployment scenario. We are trying to skill the youth to equip them for jobs in the emerging sectors.
The STeP Initiative
Smile Foundation’s Smile Twin E-learning Programme is a livelihood programme for the youth. It aims not just to educate deserving youth with limited opportunities but also to nurture their mental health and personality development. The programme equips them with the skills they need to make their own place in the world and earn their own livelihood.
This livelihood programme has succeeded in addressing the requirement of soft skills needed at the workplace. It also makes candidates confident through comprehensive training on personality development.
The centralised placement cell of STeP creates and sources opportunities for the students, both through on and off-campus placements. STeP ties up with brands such as Paytm, OYO Townhouse, and Café Coffee Day that require semi-skilled workforce. Often, the course content is worked out as per the requirement of specific brands and their recruitment needs.
The programme seeks to empower underprivileged youth, and also offers career counselling to help students choose the right employment in tune with their skills, abilities, and job expectations.
How we help
It is a known fact that a large percentage of college graduates are deemed unemployable by potential employers. It is not their lack of theoretical knowledge that causes this. Instead, it is the lack of right skills, attitude, and proper guidance.
Smile Foundation’s STeP, through our e-learning education programme, aims at creating a pool of young and independent people from a section of underprivileged youth through skill enhancement in tandem with market requirements. It is an effort towards bridging the gap between demand and supply of skilled manpower in the fast emerging services and retail sectors of modern India.
With help from corporates and donors, we are able to equip our centres to impart the necessary skills.
STeP before COVID
The national-level programme trains the poor and underprivileged youth in English proficiency, basic computer education, and soft skills. This is aimed at enhancing their prospects of employment in the retail, hospitality, and BPO sectors.
The hospitality and retails sectors are among the worst hit due to the coronavirus pandemic. These were two of the primary focus sectors for SteP, apart from BPO. Due to the changes caused by the pandemic and the lack of opportunities in these sectors as a result of huge financial losses, we had to innovate and adapt to the situation so that we could still benefit youth and make them employable in other sectors.
Innovations in the STeP initiative since COVID
As the pandemic spread, while some industries collapsed, others came up in a big way. Smile Foundation identified three core sectors that could be the focus of STeP:
BFSI (banking, financial services, and insurance).
Apart from these, the BPO sector and e-logistics are also emergent sectors that can be aligned with STeP.
How we adapted
Earlier, the curriculum for the STeP initiative was only partly online. However, due to the circumstances, all the training is now held online. The content is cloud-based and all the instructors have been given proper training to ease them into the process. Refresher trainings are also given at regular intervals. The total number of hours for the courses have also been cut down.
Sector-wise developments of Smile Foundation’s STeP initiative
To train young people for the healthcare sector, Smile Foundation started 45 centres in October 2020, 9 in June 2021, and 12 in July 2021. At these 66 centres located pan India, 5400 students have already been trained and more than half of them have been placed so far. The jobs in the healthcare sectors include those of home care givers, nurses, ambulance staff, hospital staff, and so on.
Three centres have been started in Bangalore, Delhi, and Talegaon (near Pune) since November 2020 to train students in digital marketing. Eighty have already been trained so far, out which 50 have been placed.
Employment opportunities have opened up in the banking, finance, and insurance sectors since the beginning of the pandemic. To align to this, STeP has started six centres in November and three in April to impart training for the BFSI sector. So far, 542 students have been trained and more than 180 have already been placed.
Will Smile Foundation’s SteP Initiative continue along these lines?
Data reveals that the economic aspects of even sectors such as digital marketing are not very great at the moment because of the volatile nature of the virus and the impact it has. However, Smile Foundation will keep training the youth with the necessary skills for these sectors and try to get them placed as far as possible. The initiative may even be scaled up if the situation improves.