SKILLING TO EMPOWER YOUNG WOMEN IN INDIA
Dr. Loveleen Kacker has served as the CEO of the Tech Mahindra Foundation in India since 2012, where she has provided tireless leadership on education, employability and disability. Loveleen has worked with governments, institutions, and organizations and brings over three decades of planning and administrative experience from several senior roles that she played in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), where she made impactful contributions in the areas of women and children, framing national policies on child welfare and drafting legislation on welfare schemes. Loveleen and the Tech Mahindra Foundation team have provided the 3D Program with valuable inputs and lessons learned on vocational training and ‘skilling’ of young women.
At the Tech Mahindra Foundation, women’s empowerment is integral to all our programs. Half of our beneficiaries are young women and as an organization, we believe that education and skilling are the foundation of women’s empowerment.
In 2012, we started our first SMART (Skills for Market Training) center in Hyderabad and now have 100 SMART Centers providing vocational training to almost 15,000 young women and men in both service and technical skills in a variety of fields, including hospitality, IT, welding and mechanics, among others. We work closely with our students and corporate partners to help our graduates find employment and have a high placement rate.
Vocational training only makes sense if there are jobs to be had. Healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Indian economy and there is a significant skills gap in this area. We saw this as an opportunity and set up the Tech Mahindra SMART Academy for Healthcare. The goal of the Academy was twofold — create, build and nurture skilled paramedical and allied healthcare workforce for the healthcare sector, while uplifting the country's young women and men and transforming them into world-class healthcare professionals.
In 2016, we opened our first Healthcare Academy in Delhi. Today, we have Healthcare Academies in Mohali (Chandigarh) and Mumbai and have plans to open another in Bengaluru. The academies ensure that students are trained to the highest possible standards in courses designed to respond to the latest industry requirements. The curriculum includes soft skills, such as employability skills, English-language skills and personality development, as well as technical training in IT and specific technical vocational training. Across all the Academies, we now offer several diploma and certificate courses and trained youth work in leading hospitals across the country.
The Tech Mahindra Foundation skills approximately 20,000 young women and men every year, for different job roles across India. This is just the beginning for us and I hope that the journey will continue to be far more impactful as we reach out to youth across the country. But these numbers do not tell the full story. It is in the individual stories of young women that we see the full impact of skilling programs.
A young girl in Delhi, Saba Khan, was married at 17. She became a mother at 18 and was widowed at 19. Left alone with her daughter to look after, Saba was handicapped by little education, no money and no one to guide her. She heard about the Delhi Healthcare Academy and joined the General Duty Assistant course. She successfully finished it and was placed in a job. The day she got her job, she said to me, “The happiest day of my life was when I was appointed as a General Duty Assistant with the Rotary Blood Bank. I will educate my daughter and I will not marry her before she is 21 years.” Today, a proud Saba Khan is earning enough to take care of herself and her child. As important, she has created new aspirations for herself and her daughter.
Jaspreet Kaur was a 19-year old vivacious girl studying in grade 11 in a government secondary school. She dreamt of being a doctor. Her father, the main breadwinner of the family, owned a TV repair shop. He met with an accident and suffered a spinal injury that left him bedridden. The family was left with its only earning member incapacitated, along with the added expense of his extended health care and rehabilitation. Jaspreet knew she had to give up her dream of being a doctor and help augment the family income. When her mother heard about the Tech Mahindra SMART Academy for Healthcare, she visited along with Jaspreet. Both immediately loved the setting and the teachers. Following her successful completion of the Front Office Executive course, Jaspreet’s self-confidence and fluency in English helped her ace two intense interviews at a leading hospital, and receive an offer for a Hospital Front Office Executive with a significant salary that helps support her family.
On International Day of the Girl, it is these stories that make me proud, and remind me that by giving young women the skills and opportunities they need to succeed, even in the face of great odds, the possibilities are endless.