Qualities like clarity of mind and single-minded focus are rare in a 23-year-old. But these strengths have helped Mohd Aqdas Khan to navigate and overcome hardships. Privileges did not come to Mohd Aqdas naturally; he had to earn them by grabbing every opportunity that came his way. He was born in a low-income household in east Delhi, where he lives with his parents and three siblings. Mohd Aqdas started earning at 21. He started by doing odd jobs and finally got a formal job at a restaurant aggregator and food delivery service. Although he had a steady income, his heart was not in it. He had his mind set on a retail job.
"I was always interested in retail. I have seen my cousins work in this sector in the Middle East. Interacting face-to-face with customers, meeting new people, understanding their problems and learning from them, strengthening communication skills – I like all aspects of the retail sector," he shared.
While working, Mohd Aqdas was also doing his graduation. When most of the world was adjusting to pandemic life, Mohd Aqdas utilised his time to finish his graduation in 2021. Opportunity came when Save the Children, India came sharing details about a vocational training course. "My elder brother was earning. I wanted to be independent, gain experience and not depend on anyone. I was keen on working on my experience so that I get better opportunities," he said. Mohd Aqdas was given one to one session by the Vocational Training Officer, after the interaction and understanding his area of interest, he was enrolled in the 45-day retail course.
Mohd Aqdas has completed his course from National Skill Development Corporation approved institute - Learnet Institute Skills. "I loved the course. I was unaware of a lot of things in retail. This course had both theory and practical. We did role plays of customer-sales people and learned how to make a pitch, talk to them, and how to greet them. We also visited shopping malls as part of the course and observed how people worked at the counters. Whatever I learned in class, I could see all that happening in front of my eyes!" said Mohd Aqdas.
At the end of the course, Mohd Aqdas got a job in Bata India Limited, Gurugram. He is now living the life of his dreams and looking forward to much more. Skilling adolescents and youth is a priority for the government. The Union Budget presented on February 1 also recognised the need and potential for such courses. While presenting the budget, the Finance Minister had said, "In vocational courses, to promote crucial critical thinking skills, to give space for creativity, 750 virtual labs in science and mathematics, and 75 skilling e-labs for simulated learning environments, will be set-up in 2022-23."
Under three projects, (SC Italy, Avaaya, WNCB), Save the Children launched the Vocational Training initiative focussing on urban and semi urban slums in South and East Delhi, with a plan to reach 770 youths, primarily in the 18-25 age group, over three years. The initiative was launched in 2021, a year when unemployment was increasingly becoming a concern due to the pandemic-induced economic slowdown. The course fee for the training is covered by Save the Children. Around 80% of the youths trained are placed by the training partner and the rest 20% are directly supported by Save the Children to find suitable job opportunities. Youths placed so far are earning between Rs 12,000-Rs 14,000 per month.
If the skill training course led Aqdas to get his dream job, it also helped 19-year-old Shabana become independent and focus on her career. She has seven members in the family, including parents, two brothers and two sisters. Shabana studied till Class 12 and wanted to become a teacher but her family's financial condition didn't support further education. She would take tuition classes to support her family. "I was sitting idle at home during the pandemic. When Save the Children explained about the course and that they will cover the fee, I immediately wanted to sign up. I had noticed Save the Children's work in our colony, distributing learning kits to children and helping people get ration cards," shared Shabana.
She joined the course in November 2021 and is currently working in a BPO in Noida. "I have become independent. I can feel the difference it's making ever since I started working. With this course, I was able to make a career for myself. I want to study while I am working. I want to do my graduation in Arts," she said. From earning Rs 500 by teaching children in the neighbourhood to a monthly salary of Rs 10,000, she has come a long way.
For 22-year-old Pooja, the vocational training has come as a lifeline. Her mother passed away when she was a child and she lost her father three years back. "My father had left behind Rs 30,000-Rs 40,000. Earlier, my brother used to live with me to help tide over the household expenses, but after his marriage, he started living separately. Now, I am using my father's money and doing tailoring work and somehow manage. I don't have anyone to cover my expenses," she said. Pooja's course is still going on. She hopes to get a job after the course and work towards securing her future.
So far 207 youths have undergone training and 100 have secured placement. Career counselling and enrolment of youth within the community is done by Save the Children, its partners and the training institute. A career counsellor is also involved who uses several psychometric tools to assess the youth's aptitude and interest area based on their qualification and market viability.
To help these young adults get the right jobs, Save the Children have held recruitment camps, and till date 30 companies have participated. The team does a brief survey of families in the intervention areas of Delhi to identify eligible candidates for the courses. Apart from skill's training, these youths are also trained on digital literacy, spoken English, psychosocial support and other life skills. These courses are usually 45-60 days long.