Jan Shikshan Sansthan’s skill development and entrepreneurship programme is helping unemployed youth, including school drop-outs, and women in the hill areas of Uttarakhand lead productive lives with economic reassurance.
By Nitin Jugran Bahuguna
Himanshi Dev, 21, of Bageshwar district in the hill state of Uttarakhand has had a tough childhood. Losing her father when she was ten, she and her brother were raised by their mother.
This gutsy girl from a small village called Chalkana completed her schooling in 2018 and looked for jobs to be able to help out with the household expenses. But as time went by, Himanshi realised that the labour market had little use for someone with only a high school degree.
She the heard of a skills development training programme being offered to women and youth in the district and immediately enrolled for the eight-month computer training programme. “I joined the Domestic Data Entry Operator (DDEO) course in 2020. It was a life saver because after completing the course, I was offered a job as faculty trainer under the programme,” she says.
Unemployed youth, including school drop-outs, and women in Uttarakhand’s hill areas are now fulfilling their dreams of leading enriched and productive and economically reassured lives with the introduction of Jan Shikshan Sansthan’s (JSS) comprehensive skill development entrepreneurship programme imparting skills on medicinal plants, growing mushrooms, tailoring, making handicrafts, electrical technician and for diverse industries, including textiles and the IT sector.
The JSS for Skill Development, functioning under the aegis of the ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship, is currently working in eight of the 13 districts of Uttarakhand.
“We started our training programmes in Bageshwar district in Kumaon region in 2005 and till date have imparted training in various disciplines to 25,076 youth and women,” says Dr Jitendra Tiwari, Director, JSS, Bageshwar. “While majority of our students are now enjoying economic success in home-based endeavours, at least 35 per cent of our total students are in the mainstream labour force.”
Wide range of skill trainings
Apart from the DDEO course in the IT sector, the comprehensive training programmes include tailoring, mushroom and medicinal plant cultivation, making bamboo and jute handicrafts like baskets, lamps, bags, wall hangings, office folders and other items; hand and machine-operated knitting and kalamkari work; training to guide tourists and work for the tourism and hospitality sector and prepare pickles, jams, juices and spices.
After completing their training courses, successful candidates are issued certificates by the ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship. “The certificates are computerized and in our system and we send them to prospective employers,” states Tiwari. “We have found placements in different sectors for many of our former students.”
The Sansthan’s focus is on the socio-economically backward and educationally disadvantaged groups in both urban and rural areas of the country. Its main target is to impart vocational skills to non-literates and neo-literates, including school drop-outs while prioritising women and minorities from villages and urban slums.
Beena Verma, 37, of Mandelsera village near Bageshwar, was a late learner and enrolled in the knitting and jewellery making course only last year. “I could not join earlier as my children were still very young. But there is no age bar to learning and after completing the courses, I am now a trainer at JSS,” she says.
For youngsters like Binita Pandey, 18, the programme offers potential entrepreneurs like her a holistic training starting with mastering the craft itself to understanding and handling business-related activities such as procuring raw material and the process for obtaining bank loans to start their own business.
“I have always wanted to be a designer. After completing my four-month course in tailoring, I plan to avail of a bank loan to start my own boutique,” she reveals.
Kavita Dasila, 18, has enrolled in the computer course being conducted at the JSS centre here. Belonging to a village called Chaura, located 14 km away from here, Kavita rented a room in town to along with her cousin so the two could pursue their studies. Both girls are in the second year of their BSC degree course at a local college and are simultaneously enrolled in the JSS computer training programme.
The best part of the course, in Kavita’s opinion, is learning how to type itself. “I like typing. My sister and I both realised the importance of computer training. It has become an important qualification for entry into the job markets, both in the government and private sectors,” she states.
JSS has incorporated some information in their respective programmes on the business aspect to prospective entrepreneurs in areas such as marketing, production and sale. But it is in the nascent stage, admits Tiwari adding that they have assisted many young women on how to go about availing of bank loans to start their own businesses.
For Himanshi, the journey from computer trainee to becoming a trainer has been a fruitful one. And it got even better this year when she was inducted as a full-time staff member. “In April, I was offered the post of Field Assistant-cum-Clerk at the JSS office here, “she says with pride.
Nitin Jugran Bahuguna is a Dehradun-based author and journalist covering human development issues.