Meera Shenoy and her team at Youth4Jobs has successfully placed persons with disabilities in sectors like automobile, gems and jewelry, manufacturing, gaming, retail, front desk jobs, and many more.
Bollam Renuka was always a bright girl. She got scholarships to go to school and college and never failed to make her teachers and parents proud. But even after achieving all this, life was a daily struggle. As a physically disabled girl, going to educational facilities that were not disabled-friendly was a nightmare and each day was tough on her.
When she completed her graduation, finding the right job became yet another challenge. Employers judged her on her disability. Tired and on the verge of giving up, Renuka heard of Youth4Jobs, a social enterprise that has set up placement-linked skilling centres for youth with disability.
After getting expert guidance and much-needed support from this organization, Renuka is now a senior team manager at an international bank and earns a handsome salary. Though this is nothing more than what she deserved anyway, it has taken her a long time to get a job that suits her calibre.
“Not only did she get a good job, but her English improved and she also became more confident,” says Meera Shenoy, founder, Youth4Jobs.
Renuka is just one example from among the thousands of physically disabled people that Youth4Jobs has reached out to. Started in 2012 by Shenoy, who spent six years working in the rural and tribal employment sector, Youth4Jobs was yet another project through which Shenoy wanted to reach out to a vulnerable community.
“I had helped rural and tribal youth get better jobs and the model was very successful. When I thought I had learnt enough in this field, I wanted to do something more. I was sure that I wanted to reach out to the needy. And when I saw the data on employment of disabled people in the country, I was shocked. I decided that I would start a platform to provide the right employment opportunities for them.”
– Meera Shenoy.
Youth4Jobs helps youth with locomotor, speech and hearing disabilities, and people with low vision. The majority of the youth are from rural areas and poor backgrounds.
In just two years, Shenoy’s idea had spread like wildfire and she was able to give great opportunities to thousands of disabled people. With 18 training centres in nine states of India, Youth4Jobs has trained over 6,100 disabled people, out of which 70 percent have been placed in good positions in over 200 companies countrywide.
Youth4Jobs pays special attention to girl candidates and 40 percent of all their students are girls.
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The team also helps companies become more inclusive by spreading awareness about creating the right employment opportunities irrespective of a person’s disability.
The Youth4Jobs training programme, which aims at skill development, supports disabled students through an integrated course that prepares them for various job opportunities.
Several different modules — English, soft skills, computers, and sector specific competency like retail, IT/ITeS, hospitality, media and entertainment, etc. — help them gain the required skills and confidence. Each batch has 25-30 students and close attention is paid to the needs of every candidate with help from a team of experts.
“But the biggest challenge is not training. The challenge is to change the mindset. Especially of the companies and even families. We try to help them look beyond the disability of a person. It is extremely difficult. We knock on over 1,000 households before we get one person with disability to get on board,” Shenoy says.
Youth4Jobs has successfully got people placed in sectors like automobile, gems and jewelry, manufacturing, gaming, retail, front desk jobs, and many more. Mekala Trinadh is one such story of success. Suffering from a physical disability, he also belonged to a very poor background. He got a great job in a gaming company with the help of Youth4Jobs.
The same boy who was considered “useless” by his family is now earning Rs. 20,000 a month, far more than what his family ever imagined. He is not only the sole wage earner in his family but is also helping educate his two sisters, who had earlier dropped out of school due to financial constraints.
“More than money, it is the respect in the family and the community that matters. The candidates that we place are extremely hard working, dedicated and have a desire to prove themselves. We have received great response from the companies we have placed them in,” says Shenoy.
Youth4Jobs now wants to expand its operations and reach out to more people. The aim is to start three training centres in each major city of the country.
In the next five years, the organisation wants to reach out to one million households in rural communities and train and place 15,000 people with disabilities.
“We are combining business with passion. We want this to grow as an idea and will help anyone who wants to replicate the model. We would be more than happy to help them set up a centre and share our experience,” says Shenoy.
If you would like to be part of change and help much deserving youth find the right jobs, you can extend your support to Youth4Jobs in many ways. You can volunteer with them, adopt a disabled person and support his training…you can also start your own training centre. And above all, if you think your company has an opening where a young disabled person can fit in, do contact them right away.
To know more about the work of Youth4Jobs, check out their website.