ATMA Gati Program | 03 May 2018
Members from the Gati cohort visited Sarthak Educational Trust and Youth4jobs in April to understand their training and placement practices. Both organisations have a pan-India presence and have succeeded in training and finding employment for thousands of candidates with disabilities, often from marginalised communities within the country.
Through our site visits, we explored training and placement practices within these organisations, hoping to integrate crucial pre-vocational skills within the classroom. Here is our exploration so far.
Both Sarthak and Youth4jobs provide both training and placement opportunities. At Sarthak, once the candidate is scrutinized for their suitability to the program (based on their abilities, their willingness to learn, their past qualifications, etc.) they are absorbed into a 3 month training program that involves 1.5 months of common training for skills like communication, soft skills etc. and is followed by 1.5 months of sector-specific training that is tailored to their abilities. Once placed, on-the-job training lasts for a week and is undertaken by Sarthak for each their candidates, whose performance and needs are also monitored at the place of employment (first on a monthly basis, then less frequently).
Youth4jobs condenses its training program into 2 months, which finishes with the candidates placement. Like Sarthak, they repeat the training and tailor it further to the candidates’ needs.
For Mr. Swapnil who is Project Manager at Youth4jobs’s Dadar center, understanding the skill sets of these candidates is essential to finding them suitable employment. “It is harder to get an employer to recruit a person with mental or intellectual disabilities but that is mainly because of “their fear of the unknown”. We do take up extensive sensitization programs with prospective employers: where everyone from management to the operational teams is required to attend a session on working with a person with disabilities and understanding their abilities.” In fact, Youth4jobs has taken the initiative of visiting Gati’s member organisations to be able to formally draw up a skill set of the students we work with, in order to contribute towards the role-mapping carried out for new job roles.
Preeti Rathod, handling Sarthak’s operations at their Andheri East office highlights Sarthak’s policy on approaching employers. “Of course we’ve had cases where it did not work out and working with our candidates was beyond what an employer would have expected. But in approaching employers, we focus on the candidates’ abilities and skills they have acquired from training, that makes them just as capable and competent as any- and that is what we expect from the employers as well.
A quick introduction to the programs offered by Gati’s member organisations brought to the forefront the group’s common agenda: to train their students towards self-sufficiency and economic independence. They acknowledged the dependence that most students have on their primary caregivers (families, siblings). However, “What after the age of 18?” seemed to arise as a common concern among the attendees of each site visit.
Shibani Panda, a special educator at Muskan Foundation that works with students with multiple disabilities with visual impairment threw some light on how significant a change this is, “In the beginning, we would not give thought to the question- what after 18? In the beginning, the goal was just to get our children enrolled somewhere and keep them occupied. Today, more and more parents are giving thought to their children’s independence- to what happens to their children after them and the importance of working with them to become independent.”
The students we work with are capable and can learn to pick up skills they had not previously acquired. We know that while they might take longer than otherwise to learn a new activity or pick up a new skill, they display remarkable understanding of the knowledge and skill once acquired. In this situation, us being trained to disseminate the skills and trainings that they require to find employment, is essential. Not only do our students need to be exposed to skills outside of their existing capabilities, this process also needs to begin early- in the classroom.
Preeti from Sarthak presented her perspective. “Employers today look for confidence among their employees. Besides this, a certain level of computer literacy and basic English and Math is a good point for schools to start training their students with.” Several collaborative steps have emerged from these visits for the Gati cohort. The cohort is working on extending their own understanding of the training process. In the upcoming weeks, they will explore resources on job-mapping and sensitization undertaken by Sarthak and Youth4jobs. In turn, the Gati cohort members have welcomed Sarthak and Youth4jobs to develop a deeper understanding of their students strengths and abilities- to undertake a skill-set mapping of their students and accordingly, finding more suitable employment for their students.
We’re taking this up at a site visit to one of our member’s centers. Mann, a Center for Individuals with Disabilities is set up in Santacruz, and aids its students through a Wellness Program and an Employment Program, aimed to train their students with sector-specific pre-vocational skills. The consortium aims to bring together the outreach expertise of Youth4jobs and Sarthak, to Mann’s experience with identifying and providing gainful employment for their students.