SEATTLE, Washington — India is home to more than 1.3 billion people, making India the second-most populous country next to China. Some of the major causes of urban poverty in India are the scarcity of job opportunities and a lack of practical skills. These factors have contributed to many young adults under the age of 25 becoming unemployed. Often the skills and resources that unemployed youths in India lack are computer training, personal skills and a mastery of the English language, the most commonly used language in the Indian business world. While India’s government has created the Skills India program that provides training to young adults, organizations like TechnoServe and STeP have heavily impacted the fight against youth unemployment.
Skill India is the Indian government’s answer to the country’s high youth unemployment rate. Established in 2015 and run by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, the program aims to empower 400 million youths for success in the workplace by 2022. The national scheme is comprised of different elements, including short-term training, where unemployed youths are educated in personal skills, e-skills and enterprise business. Moreover, the program recognizes prior learning so that students can take courses that fill in the missing gaps in knowledge, and offers placement guidelines to ensure candidates are assigned in a suitable field placement.
The program had a shaky start due to complex bureaucracy and has ultimately fallen behind its goal of employing 400 million people by 2022, with only 25 million young people trained so far. However, despite its challenges, the government program offers hope to unemployed youth with reliable courses and resourceful guidance.
The Smile Foundation’s STeP program
The Smile Foundation is a non-governmental organization that operates welfare programs in India focused on the “education for poor children, healthcare for families, skills training and livelihood for youth and community engagement through women empowerment,” according to their platform.
In response to India’s youth unemployment rate and youth undertraining, the Smile Foundation created the Smile Twin e-Learning Program. Underprivileged city youths are enrolled in the program and trained in business-relevant skills, including English communication, computer proficiency, business management and personal skills. In the last decade, more than 25,000 young adults were taught these essential skills, and more than 15,000 trainees were placed with well-known companies by the STeP program.
TechnoServe’s Youth Employability Program: Youth Helping Youth
Technoserve is a global organization that operates in 29 countries and focuses on improving business, farming and industries. Its Youth Employment Program (YEP) focuses on eliminating obstacles for young adults from impoverished communities by providing them opportunities among the private and public sectors in India’s capital, Mumbai. Often it is not technical skills these youths are missing, but softer skills like the mastery of the English language or the lack of networking connections. TechnoServe’s YEP trainers are often youths from Mumbai training their peers, which YEP states build confidence, creates stronger relationships and a more fun environment. In its first phase, YEP was able to find 1000 youths jobs in 2015 and has since expanded to 5000 students in 2019.
COVID-19 and the Future of Youth Employment
Unemployment among India’s youth population, mostly from impoverished communities, remains a challenge today. COVID-19 has shaken the Indian job market like much of the world, sending the unemployment rate as high as 24%. Yet, while unemployed youths in India remains high, the COVID-19 pandemic has led organizations to shift their efforts toward helping those in need. For example, the Indian government has transformed a number of its training centers into quarantine units. However, youths with healthcare training are being referred to the Ministry of Health and Welfare to help with the pandemic response.
Return to a pre-pandemic life will be slow. Still, when India is ready again to invest heavily in its large reserve of youths, there is a real promise for economic gain with a possible 2% future growth in the country’s economy.