This article has been sponsored by Intel India as part of its Ek Kadam Unnati Ki Aur Heroes campaign
For two hours a day, Roopashree A. sits glued to her laptop, but unlike many kids her age, she doesn’t browse social media sites. The teenager practices her typing skills and learns a few basic computer programs. She has enrolled herself for the Career Connect Programme, a short-term course that focuses on imparting computer and life skills. The programme is part of an initiative by Dream a Dream, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to empower young people from vulnerable backgrounds with creative life skills, thereby opening up opportunities that help them overcome adversity, and flourish in a fast-changing world.
Roopashree studies in Class 12 at KR Puram Government PU College and is clear about her ambition. Born in difficult circumstances, her dream is to become a doctor. But this firmly grounded girl says that in case she isn’t able to realise her big goal, she already has a Plan B. She hopes to graduate in science and build her career from thereon. So why is she here, studying basic computer skills?
“Today, computer skills are an intrinsic part of not just careers but our lives as well. Studying in a government school, I only learnt to play some basic games or use Paint on the computer,” she says. “One day, someone from Dream a Dream told us about the Career Connect course, and how learning basic computer and life skills can prove beneficial for students like us. And, since it was free, I thought there was no reason not to join.”
Every month, students like Roopashree enrol for this programme, being run at one of the two Dream a Dream Career Connect centres in Bengaluru.
Started in 2010, the Career Connect programme uses the Personal Computer (PC) as a medium to help students develop essential life skills and set a strong foundation that will enable them to tap competitive opportunities. To date, the programme has helped 5,000 youth get jobs by equipping them with relevant skills. It is one of the four key programmes designed to create the best possible world for the youth.
The other three are the After School Life Skills Programme, Teacher Development Programme, and the Volunteer Engagement Programme. The first uses sports and arts to engage and develop critical life skills. The second engages adults to deepen impact on and unlock the potential of young people. And the third brings together community volunteers from corporates, colleges, and society at large to engage with young people by offering their time, skills, and more.
Watch this video to know more about how Dream a Dream’s Career Connect Programme is empowering youth from vulnerable backgrounds, helping them script their future.
The Career Connect programme equips students with information, skills, and access to opportunities that help make a healthy transition into responsible adulthood. It comprises career awareness workshops, short-term modules in English, communication skills, money management, and career guidance. Students are also provided access to internships, scholarships, vocational training, and jobs. The programme is delivered through 25 sessions. Each of these sessions last over two hours, every evening. And after the students complete the course, they are free to walk in and practise and improve their newly acquired skills.Elaborating on the programme’s intent, Sucheta Bhat, COO, Dream a Dream, says, “The Career Connect Programme essentially helps build confidence among students, who are in a transitional phase from school and early college. From a secure environment, they are now preparing to make career choices. And we use computers as a medium to develop their confidence. Apart from basic technical skills, they also learn to manage situations related to conflicts during decision-making or workplace scenarios, handling pressure, and so on.”
Shiva K. is one of the 5,000+ students who have benefited from the programme. He is unable to contain his excitement that he is now a graduate, the first in his family. And, while waiting for his results, this 22-year-old has been balancing two part-time jobs – as a courier boy at Flipkart and as a delivery boy at Swiggy. Today, this fast learner updates his employers on the status of his work for the day on his internet-enabled device. “I wouldn’t have been able to do all this so well had I not taken the Career Connect course. From being comfortable working on a PC to using the internet for finding job opportunities, my initial lessons were learnt here.”
When asked about his aspirations and where he sees himself in a couple of years from now, his open smile gives way to a mature answer, “At the moment, I have certain financial and family commitments. So I will continue with the current jobs till I am able to fund my MBA course. A few years from now, I want to be in a managerial position. This is my dream for the moment.”
While the Career Connect programme primarily has students from schools and colleges within a three to five kilometre radius from the centre, there are also those who come from the city’s outskirts and adjoining non-urban areas. Vijay Kumar M, the centre’s manager, says that a key reason the programme is popular is because students see tangible results. Even after they finish the Career Connect programme, many still continue to turn up here – either to continually brush up their computer skills or use the internet to search for jobs, scholarships, and relevant programmes, or even volunteer. This also has a positive impact on the newcomers; they know these skills will come in handy.
Even the walls at the centre exude positivity. A handwritten poster shows the goals set: to successfully complete the course, build creativity, and to gain knowledge about computer and life skills. And there is one other message written in bold: “I change the script.”
And, sure enough, they do. Like Vishwa Diwan, Dream a Dream’s poster child, who is now living his dream of working with an animation studio, and hundreds of others who today work at retail chains, cafes, banks, and across a spectrum of sectors. These youngsters have graduated, secured jobs, and are enabling their families move up in life.
The Power of a PC
For an organisation that has been working since 1999 in the area of life skills development, even as the term was still being given a structured definition by the United Nations, we ask what role the computer plays in its journey. Sucheta’s response is, “By teaching basic computing skills, and essential life skills, and by giving vulnerable young people access to these devices, we are opening up their world. It helps them discover opportunities and make choices not constrained by their background as computer skills give them access to the same opportunities as the rest of society.”