24 Good Businesses 2012

Where will meets skill

Empower Pragati, with governments and corporates, is training young Indians for jobs

VISHAL KOUL

Nineteen-year-old Jyoti Kumar trudges three kms from her home in a crowded transit camp at Govindpuri to a training centre in south Delhi’s Tughlakabad every day. It’s a long walk but the muggy monsoon afternoons don’t dampen her enthusiasm a whit. Jyoti is one of 15 students attending a skills training course conducted by Empower Pragati, a private sector social enterprise started in 2010 to provide vocational training to economically disadvantaged young Indians. Today’s class is on Spoken English.

Soon enough, the trainer’s eyes land on Jyoti and he asks her to introduce herself in English. The whole class turns to look at the young woman in the bright pink and black salwar kameez. She looks nervous. A lifetime of aspirations weighs down that infinitesimal pause. Then, almost imperceptibly, the Class 12 government school pass-out straightens her slight frame, and speaks with near-perfect diction in a language that was largely alien during her growing-up years. It’s a carefully constructed transformation in which Jyoti has found an unexpected and reliable ally in Empower Pragati. The company, which has combined social awareness with labour market realities teaches skills that will help Jyoti and many others like her in the real world. 

Empower’s five founders — Rajendra Joshi, Rajiv Sharma, Arun Bhardwaj, Jagannath Rao Dasigi, and Paul S Lalvani — are unified by a strong background in corporate India and the conviction that high-school dropouts need vocational training. “There is a vast employability gap and less than 2% of the workforce is fit for employment,” says Rajiv Sharma, managing director of Empower Pragat

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