India has experienced remarkable economic growth since the 1990s, resulting in new jobs and new development. From an outside perspective, it seems there is a wealth of employment opportunities for India’s youth. However, research from the Promise Foundation, an Indian NGO that provides career consulting services, shows that the majority of India’s youth come from poor backgrounds and typically take a short term view of their future. Youth from poorer regions of India will often seek employment immediately after completing high school. However, over the longer term, the same young person remains an unskilled worker, resulting in less opportunity and less stable employment options. This can lead to chronic unemployment and can have a negative effect on the workforce in the future.
The Promise Foundation was established in 1987 by Gideon Arulmani and aims to improve India’s human resources sector by focusing on providing counselling and career development services to disadvantaged children and youth. The organization’s research shows that people who come from poor socioeconomic backgrounds have different beliefs and attitudes about employment that can cause them to become trapped in the cycle of poverty, even though better opportunities may be available to them. These youth feel a financial pressure to start earning as soon as they can, instead of spending more time developing comprehensive skills. They often focus on careers that seem lucrative and easy to access, as opposed to careers that fit their interests and would provide a personally fulfilling livelihood.
The Promise Foundation works in several ways to address these complex social and economic challenges, including implementing their own projects and collaborating with other organizations. They currently provide workshops and intervention programs in 55 schools in slums and rural areas across India. They also provide training programs for teachers and non-formal educators who work with children and youth from disadvantaged areas. The Promise Foundation also provides staff training in assessment, implementation, and evaluation services to almost 150 government organizations, international NGOs, and local NGOs. Their goals are to work directly with children and youth and also to provide resources to other organizations in order scale up their work and replicate it across the country.
The Promise Foundation’s career education and development programs are based on the belief that everyone has talents and passions that could become their livelihood. Their programs use traditional career counselling approaches, but they also combine these approaches with other interventions that address the specific challenges and attitudes that disadvantaged youth face in India. Their work includes a focus on participatory methodology and the psychological factors linked to development. In their programs, youth learn about the many career possibilities that are open to them, and are coached through how to obtain training, scholarships, and other support to help them follow their desired path. For those who truly do not have the means to pursue further education, the organization possesses a database of career opportunities that can be used as a resource.
A common international development approach to helping people find jobs and support their families is simply to provide vocational training or workshops that teach skills for a specific type of employment. However, the Promise Foundation places a somewhat different spin on this approach. They recognize the importance of choice in creating truly sustainable livelihoods and a happy, motivated workforce. The Promise Foundation believes that it is not enough to simply have a skill, but workers must be able to choose their own career path and learn how to achieve the kind of career they want. If given the opportunity to decide for themselves, the disadvantaged youth of India could hold long and satisfying careers, and contribute greatly to the economic development of their country.