Mumbai, 15 July 2020: The global World Youth Skills Day 2020 celebrations took place in a challenging context this year considering the unprecedented global situation. Resilience was the keyword as the world converged upon a virtual platform to reflect over the COVID-19 impact on skill development.
On a similar note, Mumbai-based Salaam Bombay Foundation also organised a webinar on Wednesday that explored efficacious models to equip youth with the skills to develop the resilience that opened up pathways to relevant careers, especially in the post COVID scenario. The webinar also threw light on a comprehensive skill training model that was adapted by Salaam Bombay Foundation in early April.
The webinar was attended by dignitaries like Shri Nawab Malik – Hon’ble Minister for Minority Development, Aukaf and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship for Maharashtra, Shri Deependra Singh Kushwah, IAS, CEO, Maharashtra State Innovation Society & Maharashtra State Skill Development Society, Commissioner – DSDEE & Director, DVET, Govt of Maharashtra, members ofRotary Club of Bombay and Nandina Ramchandran, CEO, Salaam Bombay Foundation.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown affected learning at various levels including skill training. They upturned course schedules, disrupted teaching and learning, and likely affected the immediate and future careers of millions of learners.However, as stakeholders realized that the impasse could not go on forever, the crisis opened up opportunities for the development of more flexible digital learning solutions. Salaam Bombay Foundation was one such organisation that learned early on that its skill training model had to be moved online.
The exercise, though, was fraught with legion challenges. All the beneficiaries of Salaam Bombay Foundation’s skill training programme are students of government schools who were undergoing vocational skill training in school integrated with secondary education. For them, moving skill training to digital platforms involved the dual travails of availability of digital devices and internet connectivity – an issue faced by lakhs of students in India.
In fact, as per a study titled Scenario amidst COVID 19 – Onground Situations and Possible Solutionsconducted in April, about 56 per cent of children in India do not have access to smartphones. Salaam Bombay Foundation’s own internal study too revealed similar numbers. The study that covered over 2,500 of the organisation’s alumni showed that only 40-45 % of the students had access to smartphones and over 50% did not have any access to virtual training methods.
The herculean task was now to provide the right kind of digital skill training to the 45% who had access while also trying to reach out to the rest. There were other obstacles too. Most trainees,who were used to ‘learn by doing’ under the supervision of a trainer or mentor in an ‘in-person’ setting, were particularly hamstrung.
The Salaam Bombay Foundation team realised that while theoretical knowledge could be delivered to the trainees using digital platforms, the challenge was to ensure that it was translated into application using innovative pedagogy blended with experiential learning.
To this end, Salaam Bombay Foundation pioneered a model where its team delivered homebased pocket training kits for skill training courses like Beauty and Wellness, and Home Appliance Repair vocation trades to ensure that the trainee could use them to practice while attending live sessions or watching the videos. The model was then replicated for training in other vocational skills such as Mobile Repair, Bakery & Confectionary, Jewellery Design, Media and Entertainment, Sports etc.
There were still other impediments too, with many students lacking mobile devices, data packs, the ability to recharge etc. While Salaam Bombay Foundation themselves invested in recharging data packs for students, they also reached out to various organisations who could come forward to donate mobile devices to the students.
One of the first organisations to come on-board was the Rotary Club of Bombay who agreed to donate as many as 160 tablets worth Rs 12.5 lakh for the cause. These tablets are 4G enabled, loaded with relevant mobile applications to be used towards anytime, anywhere learning. The announcement was made during the webinar on Wednesday.
Gaurav Arora, Vice-president, Projects (skills and sports), Salaam Bombay Foundation, explained the initiative, “In early April, it became clear that skill training in an in-person manner would be difficult in the near future and online was the way forward. An initial pilot of 250 students which blended practical training with home kits and on-line lessons, proved successful. We now have the ability to take this model to 1,500 students over the next three months. We believe our model can be replicated across several trades, ensuring youth continue to work towards their goals and build resilience despite the challenging circumstances they find themselves in today.”
Mr Framroze Mehta, President, Rotary Club of Bombaysaid, “It is more important than ever now, to continue skill training for youth whose futures depend on it. While there are challenges, they are also myriad opportunities. Rotary Club of Bombay got on onboard this project because we believe that it is our collective responsibility to support such an excellent initiative. It would be good if other organisations too supported such an initiative.”
Shri Nawab Malik, Minister for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Govt. of Maharashtra said, “If we want to reach out to the masses and offer them access to skills training during the period of lockdown then we need more institutions like Salaam Bombay Foundation.’’
The virtual eventconcluded that the future will see melting of physical boundaries of training and evolve into a more hybrid approach towards skill training. This will pave the way for a new concept of ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning.