India has one of the highest youth population in the world with an estimate high of 356 million youth. 500 million Indian citizens are expected to be under the age of 25 by 2020. If its 500 million youth, around 64% of our population will be added to our workforce and the country’s socio-economic development will witness an unprecedented rise. Economists believe such favorable demographic dividend could add a significant 2% to the GDP growth rate.
Let us take a look at the ground reality. In a recent survey of about 6,000 young people aged between 15 and 34, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) found that 48 per cent of respondents cited unemployment as India’s biggest problem. India happens to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and yet this financial growth has not trickled down to benefit the sheer volume of people who are out of jobs. What is even more unfortunate is that it is not so much the dearth of jobs,but the lack of skilled manpower is the reason behind such large numbers of unemployed youth. It is not unemployment, but un-employability that leaves the Indian youth frustrated, dejected and disillusioned.
Unequal access to opportunity remains a persistent problem while lack of formal vocational education, high school dropout rates, inadequate skill training capacity, negative perception towards skilling, and lack of industry ready skills even in professional courses are the major causes of poor skill levels of India’s workforce. Cognizant of the fact, over the years, successive Indian governments have launched schemes to both increase the number of new jobs being created and young people’s ability to do them. The most recent of these is the Skill India Mission, which aims to provide training to 400million people by 2022 through various government initiatives.
With this very vision and in a concerted effort to equip, enable and empower the youth, Smile Foundation had initiated its national livelihood programme, the Smile Twin e-Learning Programme, or as we call it, STeP – the first step towards a dignified life. Urban underprivileged youth, including high school drop-outs and under-trained graduates are identified and enrolled under the programme and trained in market-oriented skills such as English communication, computer proficiency, basic management, personality development and soft skills.
In addition to knowledge and skill enhancement, STeP also focuses on providing practical exposure to its young trainees to help them get job-ready, by creating an ecosystem wherein the students can meet their potential employers. This is facilitated through regular employer engagement sessions and industry exposure visits which help the youth get hand-on training and develop an understanding of concepts such as workplace culture, customer satisfaction, and work ethics and also familiarize them with every day challenges. Career counseling sessions and volunteer knowledge exchange programmes are conducted where well-trained, employed youth share their experience with the STeP trainees.
Over the last ten years, STeP has successfully trained more than 25,000 youth and placed over 15,000 in 150 reputed brands across the country. At present, 91 STeP centres are operational pan-India, with young women making up 55% of the total trainees. This, however, is just a small step towards addressing the much larger need of enabling and empowering the huge youth population of the country, and tapping the demographic dividend.
“Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for socio-economic progress. But how we meet its needs will decide whether the largest youth population in the world would actually turn out to be an asset for India.”
To know more about the STeP programme , click the link given: