Bangalore-based NGO aims to give job opportunities to a million youth

Carlin Carr, Bangalore Community Manager
Bangalore, 17 February 2015

India's youth population is one of the largest in the world, which means that India has a budding pool of talent and potential waiting to be tapped. The "demographic dividend" — the idea that this emerging workforce could reap great benefits for this country — stands at the forefront of many government-led initiatives, including, most notably, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The goal of the organization, which focuses primarily on young people from disadvantaged communities, is to contribute significantly to a countrywide target of providing skills training to 500 million people in India by 2022.

In Bangalore, an organization called Unnati has been working to harness the potential of the city's underprivileged youth for more than a decade. Unnati works holistically to provide youth with opportunities for economic independence and sustainable livelihood options. Their program focuses on building the confidence of its participants so they can see a new pathway for the future. Many Unnati trainees have dropped out of the traditional school system at a young age and have few mentors in their networks to guide them in mapping out an appropriate alternative plan. Unnati's 70-day program fills that gap.

Unnati's vision and mission has grown significantly since it started over a decade ago. In its first year, the organization trained just 70 youth in two vocations. Today, youth from all over Bangalore come to its state-of-the-art campus for a large variety of programs and opportunities. While many organizations around the country focus on skills training, Unnati is exceptional in that all of its programs are free. Youth are provided with shelter, food, and training without charge, allowing the poorest of the poor to take advantage of this unusual opportunity. Unnati sustains itself through support from various foundations.

Every year, Unnati has more than 600 youth pass through its doors. The center aims to provide a physical infrastructure and quality curriculum on par with the country's elite academic institutions. The last week of Unnati's training program is dedicated to setting graduates up with placements in the fields it trains for — including administrative assistants, retail sales and marketing positions, guest care workers, bedside assistants, and beauticians. Companies that recruit through Unnati range from Café Coffee Day to Levi's to Tata Consultancy to Taj Hotel Resorts and Palaces.

In line with the country's larger skill training goals, Unnati has set its own target of training one million youth by 2022. The organization's goals for up-skilling its youth — and the country's, for that matter — are ambitious. However, for these initiatives truly to succeed, they need to do more than merely providing certificates to the young people who graduate. True solutions must address the variety of challenges faced by disadvantaged youth when they enter the workforce. Only then, when skills training programs incorporate the personal development of these young people, will the demographic dividend truly reap long-term rewards for India.

Photo credit: Unnati

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