In the fast-changing economy of 21st century, often referred to as the knowledge era, the very notion of ‘job’ is shifting as workers increasingly seek meaning, purpose and fulfillment from their work roles. ‘Career’ is now viewed as something every human has for a lifetime and ‘work’ is now defined not only by occupational tittles and categories, but by skills and values. As a result, a new paradigm is needed to help students to make informed career choices and gain the necessary employability and self-management skills to embark on a successful and sustainable journey into the world of work.
Skill development has been identified as a national priority and several schemes have been launched by both the state and central governments, but lack of awareness about valid career options is resulting in a peculiar anomaly of ‘higher-jobs fewer demand’ and ‘higher-demand-fewer jobs’ and the benefits of the skill development programmes are not reaching the target audience. It is in this context that the government of West Bengal under RMSA has been implementing an innovative project since 2012, called “Education to Employability” with technical support from Vikramshila.
The project is in alignment with MHRD’s suggestion of setting up of guidance and counselling cells in every school and the presence of at least one teacher in each and every school, who is conversant with the theory and practice of counselling. The project aims to enhance life and career awareness skills along with developing some employability skills among school students. The project has received recognition from MHRD as one of the best practices adopted by the state govt. in the space of vocational education at school level. Starting with 10 schools in Kolkata in 2008, the project has gradually evolved in its approach and content aligning itself with the changing times and growing needs of the students. Currently it reaches out to 200 schools covering all 21 districts in West Bengal. Last year, a very important component was added to the project to expand its scope and relevance among the adolescent age group – Life Skills.
An impact assessment of the project has shown that it has been a valuable intervention which provides a wrap-around support inculcating basic employability skills and generating career awareness among the students.
Development of new integrated module along with student’s workbook
Vikramshila has designed a life-skill curriculum under SSA for adolescent girls in KGVB hostels called ‘Dishari’ and is targeted for girls in Classes V to VIII. In 2014-15, an enriched module was created for Class VIII which had included some ‘employability’ components suited to rural contexts, keeping in mind the fact that some of the girls in hostels may not continue with further education. Seeing the positive impact of the Life Skills project on these students, and considering its relevance for adolescent boys and girls, a decision was taken to take it forward to students of Classes IX and X. Since the E2E project was already in place in 200 schools, it was decided that the Life Skills component would be made part of it, instead of running a parallel programme.
Thus, an integrated module focusing on developing Life Skills, Career awareness and key employability skills has been developed by Vikramshila through a participatory process under the RMSA supported E2E project. It aims to open up this space where they can reflect, debate, discuss and clarify their doubts. Through these sessions, they will be helped to develop a sense of identity, a positive self-image, and build positive relationship with others including members of opposite sex. The integrated Package is therefore an attempt to broaden the scope of the ongoing E2E programme and make it more relevant to the changing times. The new module is embedded into the school curriculum and is implemented by teachers. The integration of the module within the school routine and its implementation by teachers ensures sustainability of the project.
Direct intervention in 30 Kolkata schools
As we have scaled up our programme to 200 government schools throughout the state of West Bengal, we work directly with a sub set of 30 schools based in Kolkata. This helps our team to work directly with children and parents, interact more often with the teachers and school heads, and thus gain valuable insights about the project that help us in refining our content or modifying our strategies. Here is a glimpse of our activities in these schools in the last year:
• In these schools, the project is run for children of Classes 9 to 12. There are 10 hub schools and 20 spoke schools. 8746 students in 30 Kolkata project schools have been assessed through end line test and an evaluation has been done to measure the level of their learning which has shown an increment of 20.51 on an average in each of the intervention areas.
• 3685 students went through Group Career Counselling and about 550 students went through one-on-one career counselling
• 422 students from the previous year (class X & class XII) were tracked to find out their course of study or employment. It was found out that almost 40% of the students followed the direction that was set during their counselling and chose to pursue their preferred career path.
• A Career Day was celebrated in 29 project schools with around 5600 participating students and more than 50 guests. Distinguished personalities from various regular as well as unconventional professions participated in the career day events to inspire students by sharing their life experiences.
• SMART is a unique initiative of Tech Mahindra Foundation, which aims to link students to post school employment. 626 students from the project schools were oriented on the Course and mobilised for enrolling in different centres and 33 candidates among them got enrolled and were placed in jobs.
Our work with BMSP, Bihar
The E2E project gained traction last year, as we were invited by BMSP, Government of Bihar to provide technical support to them to start a project on Life Skills and Career Counselling. A module development work- shop was held in May 2015, with a group of experts.
Four modules were developed: Life Skills, Career Counselling, Communicative English and Digital Literacy (IT). The modules were finalized and validated through another workshop and a decision was taken to start a pilot in Patna with 20 schools which would act as demonstration models to 100 schools in 6 districts where the project would be first rolled out. Vikramshila was invited by Government of Bihar to participate in Bihar Diwas in March 2016 to showcase the project.
Placement linked skills training programme – E2E Plus
Vikramshila in association with a Kolkata based social enterprise – ESDECS Edskill Services, had launched a placement linked skills training programme – E2E Plus last year. This programme is targeted for students/ex-students of E2E schools that are looking for immediate employment on completion of their board examinations, in services and allied sectors. In the pilot phase which was completed successfully in January 2015, 23 candidates were selected from E2E schools, trained and placed in jobs in Hospitality and BPO.
With the continuation of E2E project in 2015-16, E2E Plus became an integral part of the project and during the HM orientation of the 200 project schools; details of E2E Plus were shared. The concept of placement linked skills training was appreciated by the HMs. In the month of February 2016, E2E Plus started by calling all the schools and HMs of 28 E2E project schools welcomed the idea of starting mobilisation of students from their schools. Schools were spread across all districts and seminars were organised in the schools. Schools made an effort in spreading the word about placement linked job oriented training programme in the locality and in most centres there was overwhelming response. It is interesting to note that the response to this programme is better in schools which are far from the nearest town or cities. After the seminar and the selection process 514 candidates were shortlisted for E2E Plus training.
In the second phase 116 students have been trained till date and we will be training and placing in total 200 candidates by September 2016. These students are spread across13 districts of West Bengal. Students who have completed their training have been placed in the following sectors and companies:
••Hospitality – Speciality Restaurants, Bar- B-Que Nation, Cafe Coffee Day, Sodexo, Koshe Kosha
••BPO – Tatwa, Hinduja Global
••Retail – Pantaloon, Khadims’ India Ltd
Raja Gayen is a 25-year-old youth who had completed his Plus 2 and had no clue about how to go about looking for employment. He had no plan for further studies. The situation was such that Raja needed to work given the situation at home. Raja had undergone an operation the previous year because of which he could not travel a lot. He heard about the E2E Plus programme from a teacher of Nimpith Ramkrishna Vidyapith and with his friends went to the school to learn more about the programme. The assurance of employment made him join this training. After completing the training Raja appeared for an interview and got an offer from Khadim’s. He was asked to join a showroom in Bhawanipur in
The month of Feb 2016 with a salary of Rs. 5500/- plus incentives. In the month of May, he got a raise of Rs. 1500/- and moved to the Gariahat showroom. Raja is very happy and feels now there is a direction in life.
Module Development on inclusion and career counseling
A module on inclusion and career counseling has been developed by us in collaboration with RMSA and in consultation with SCERT, West Bengal. It has been approved by West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. This module aims to provide teachers with a holistic over- view on some very important yet neglected areas concerning school education: following inclusive practices and the importance of counseling (both career counseling and psychological counseling) in school. The logic of the module flows from practicing inclusive measures to combat exclusion in general to dealing with children who require special care and attention to addressing the special needs of the children belonging to a specific age-group and providing guidance accordingly.