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Smile’s ‘STeP’ to improve lives of underprivileged youth

Meri News (16 July 2012)

Though the country has the largest pool of young population waiting to take on the growing employment opportunities, the darker side of the picture is that there are very few who have the required eligibility and skills being sought by the employers. This is where Smile steps in.

RIMA AND Santosh are two underprivileged youth who probably would never have got a good education, comfortable life and employment, had they not been a part of Smile Foundation’s e-learning program. With Smile Twin e- Learning Program (STep), Smile Foundation, an NGO is trying to bridge this gap between demand and supply of skilled manpower in fast emerging services and retail sectors in modern India and in the process changed lives of many youths across the country.

Smile Twin e- Learning Program is a national level initiative of Smile Foundation. It is an effort towards creating a pool of independent youth living with dignity from the underprivileged section through skill enhancement in tandem with market requirements. The Program aims at preparing urban underprivileged (adolescent youths) with skills in English Proficiency, Basic Computer Education and Soft Skills for enhancing their prospects of employment in fast expanding sectors like retail outlets, hospitality and BPOs sectors.
The objective of this program is to provide job oriented marketing skills to those under privileged youth whose education and marketable skills need grooming so as to make them eligible for tapping the job opportunity in the booming IT and Retail jobs. Rima, daughter of a food vendor mother felt helpless at times due to lack of skills to support the family financially but STeP has proved to be her life changing experience by providing employment to her. “I want to make career in sales and marketing. I have taken my first step in this field and I intend to excel in the same field to reach greater heights professionally” says Rima.

STeP is helping country both at Micro and Macro perspective. Many boys and girls from less privileged sections of the society manage to study up to higher secondary level from Municipal schools, some of them above average if not brilliant. However despite being good in studies and having a strong desire to study further, they get restrained due to family’s economic conditions. Pressed with economic necessities, some or all may take up some menial jobs on daily wage but it would have negative effect on their own moral and mental state; besides value of education going down in their eyes and also the community they live in.

STeP is seeking to train these adolescent children in identifying marketable skills enabling them to qualify for employability under services and retail sectors and facilitate their joining mainstream; and providing a dignified life for self and family.?And on a national perspective generating employment is a big challenge. But this challenge must be met successfully if the country has to prosper to fuller extent. Approximately 1/5th (about 22 per cent) of country’s population is adolescents (11-19) and constitutes a significant part of labor force. Therefore it is very crucial that such young work force is put on economically gainful engagements and thus youth energy channelized meaningfully participating in economic growth and nation building lest they are let loose, adding to family woes, social stress and national misery.

The Financial Express reports that only 15% of the graduates coming out of colleges are employable, the rest being branded ‘unemployable’. This is not because of the lack of theoretical knowledge but for the lack of the right skills and attitude. Thus Smile Foundations through STeP aims at training Urban under privileged youths- for enhancing their prospects of employment in fast expanding sectors like retail, hospitality, BPO’s etc thus is providing them livelihood support by setting up SMILE twin e- learning centres and providing relevant training and placements. STeP is not only focusing on imparting just training but also providing employment and its focus is to develop marketable skills in youth and on grooming them for getting entry level jobs in fast expanding sectors along with developing the participants’ personalities and making them aware of the potential industries in which they might take up jobs.

Santosh who lost his father at young age and was seeing no ray of hope in his career but STeP program has made difference in his life by providing a job to him and completely turned around the struggling scenario of his family. “I want to earn and help my mother in educating my 2 younger siblings. I also want to improve the kind of life my family is having” says Santosh who works in SRS Mall as a customer executive and his mother also works in a shop.

Just like these two people Smile has brought smile to many people around the country by setting up 53 STeP centres in partnership with local NGOs/Schools/ Corporate CSR wings in 41 cities spread in 19 states. Till date 12048 beneficiaries have been trained out of which 8582 STeP students have been placed in companies like Café Coffee Day, Westside Stores, ICICI, HDFC, Reliance Retail, Big Bazaar, Spencer, Croma etc.

The genesis of this project emanates from the scenario that, while there are emerging/increasing employment prospects and opportunities in India in booming services sectors at the one hand; on the other is found significant gap between skills available and industry requirements. Though the country has the largest pool of young population waiting to take on the growing employment opportunities, the darker side of the picture is that there are very few who have the required eligibility and skills being sought by the employers. And this gap continues.


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