Vishal Talreja, Co-founder Dream a Dream
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Career Connect Programme
Helping young people from adversity thrive in the 21st century
The reality of the bulk of young people in India is tremendous poverty, high drop-out rates, and unskilled labour culminating in unemployment for a vast majority of the youth. The government and other organisations have created initiatives to try to remedy these issues. The mainstream solutions have thus far been creating skilling programmes and focusing on increasing standard quantitative measures like literacy and numeracy.
But in the process of focusing on academic achievements and skilling young people for employability, the government and other stakeholders have failed to realize that these surface-level issues are connected to a much deeper problem - one that Dream a Dream discovered 20 years ago: childhood adversity and a failure to thrive.
When government programmes or other forms of intervention have not fully grasped the extent of childhood adversity, the result is that their solutions do not adequately address all facets of the issue. Despite gaining vocational skills, the trainee may not be ‘employable’ due to poor communication skills, a lack of confidence or, poor coping abilities. These are just symptoms of a deeper challenge faced by young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
When young people experience neglect, abandonment, lack of emotional care or violence, abuse, it affects their ability to achieve developmental milestones and engage with the world. Adversity affects their ability to engage with the world, make healthy life choices and be successful. The impact of adversity is seen throughout their lives, for instance, in not being able to keep a job.
In 19 years of Dream a Dream’s experience with young people we have seen that when young people develop their Life Skills, they are able to overcome failure to thrive and re-engage with life. Hence, unless we focus on Life Skills as core foundational skills, skilling programmes will have limited impact. Our Career Connect Programme conducts career awareness workshops, runs short-term modules in computers, english, communication skills, career guidance and provides access to internships, scholarships, vocational training and jobs. What makes our programme different from other skilling solutions is the focus on the development of creative life skills through these sessions, and the agency which young people are given to develop their own path.
The Career Connect Programme:
1. Life Skills are developed when there is consistent, long-term engagement in the presence of a caring, empathetic adult. Our facilitators play this important role in the transformation process of the young adults. An empathetic adult is one that shows care, compassion and holds an emotionally safe space by understanding issues, not judging, and validating feelings.
2. We have integrated creative life skills as the core of our work on top of which other technical skills are developed. The life skills we focus on are managing conflict, understanding and following instructions, taking initiative, and interacting with others.
3. We develop life skills through a combination of role-modeling by the trainer/facilitator and the use of transformative, creative, experiential pedagogies that understand adversity and ways to overcome it. We use theater, visual arts, song, dance, and sports, among other techniques, to develop these life skills and encourage our young people to embrace their creativity, which they often do not have the opportunity to do in school.
4. We provide last mile support by equipping 15-23 year olds with information and skills to make healthy transitions to adulthood by conducting career awareness workshops, short-term sessions on English, communication skills, entrepreneurship, career guidance and providing access to internships, scholarships, vocational training, and jobs. All of these sessions incorporate creative life skills directly into the curricula.
5. Our approach is highly personalised because we understand the experiences of adversity and its impact on each young person is unique. We encourage young people to creatively develop their own programmes, and support young people who want to create their own sessions and find their own path.
The Career Connect programme works with 5,000 15-23 year olds annually. Since its launch in 2011, over 20,000 youth were impacted. Over the last 6 years, we have been tracking over 8000 graduates from our programme and 95% of them continue to be meaningfully engaged with their communities.
In conclusion, the pace of change in the world is frantic and unpredictable. Young people are entering a very complex future filled with many challenges, which we are currently seeing play out on an unprecedented scale. It is predicted that 65% of new jobs in the world have not yet been created. Moreover, job requirements are moving from linear repetitive tasks to non-linear, multi-dimensional task requiring a host of different skills. In this scenario, focusing on specific vocations might mean a death sentence for these young people if those jobs become redundant in the future.
Hence, an investment and focus on Life Skills will help young people develop the agency, creativity, and resilience to re-invent themselves in a fast changing, complex and unpredictable job scenario and continue to thrive.