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As graduate Rohit Gupta, now employed at the Hyatt Regency hotel puts it, ‘the Youth Career Initiative has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me.’
With 75 million youth looking for work worldwide, youth unemployment is a global problem. India is particularly affected, since 50% of its population is under 25 years old. At the same time, businesses lack access to skilled workers, an issue that is widespread in the developing world and can be detrimental to business growth. One programme that closes this gap is the Youth Career Initiative (YCI), run by the International Tourism Partnership.
YCI works with local charities to identify disadvantaged young people, who have completed high school education but have limited or no opportunities of finding employment or continuing education, and then places them in the YCI six-month education programme. The programme has been designed by YCI and is delivered in partnership with the international hotel industry, involving over 750 hours of combined classroom-based and practical training. In India alone Courtyard Mumbai by Marriott, the Four Seasons Mumbai, the Hyatt Regency Mumbai, the JW Marriott Mumbai, the Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, the Park Navi Mumbai and the Trident Bandra Kurla Mumbai are all participating in the programme.
The programme is designed to provide students with transferable skills, work experience and job opportunities whilst making good business sense for the hotel companies involved. YCI not only feeds into the hotel groups’ corporate social responsibility targets but also allows them to grow and nurture a pool of committed and loyal staff.
The wider community also benefits. When a YCI graduate is offered a job at the end of the education programme, their income has a positive effect on an average of four additional people in their family. And so the socio-economic impact of the scheme works like a ripple effect throughout disadvantaged communities.
YCI piloted its first India programme in Mumbai in June 2012. Since the six-month programme finished in November, all of the graduates have found employment, with many receiving two or three job offers. They are now working at the participating hotel properties, independent restaurant chains, cafés, and other hotels in the city. One student has gone back to complete his education and is eager to join the hotel industry later on. This 100% success rate was reached within merely one week of the course finishing.
Ms. Majima, Training Manager at Trident Bandra Kurla, says that YCI has given them the chance to get their own hotel staff engaged: ‘The trainers at the hotel felt involved knowing they would transform these kids into something fabulous after six-months. Of course we did have our little ups and downs, highlights of happiness, a little sulking and moments of celebration. This has truly been a rewarding experience for us.’
The Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel hosted the graduation ceremony where the proud students were cheered on by their families and friends, their mentors from the 7 participating hotels and other supporting organisations. Saeid Heidari, General Manager of the Renaissance adds: ‘It’s great to see the transformation in these young people from the day they first walked in to the hotel and today. This programme adds great value to the lives of these youth and we will continue to support YCI.’
The pilot was delivered with the support of a local not-for-profit, the Kherwadi Social Welfare Association, which has been working with underprivileged youth for almost 100 years. Kherwadi was responsible for the recruitment of the participants, the monitoring of the programme and for identifying job opportunities for the graduates.
The majority of students on the programme come from the Dharavi Slums area, where International Tourism Partnership’s Director, Stephen Farrant, recently went on an enlightening Reality Tour. One of Asia’s largest slums, Dharavi is thought to be home to over 1 million people in just 2 sq. km and its small-scale industries turn over an impressive US$ 665 million a year. Commenting on his tour, Stephen appreciated being given the opportunity to see for himself where YCI participants have grown up, ‘Dharavi was full of real energy, creativity and dignity, despite the very obvious hardships and constraints.’ Summer Starr, Executive Director of Reality Gives later commented, ‘I was thoroughly impressed with the YCI graduation - our girls really blossomed in the 6 months they were in the program.’
To find out more about the experiences of the students, mentors and partners participating in the India pilot, watch the latest YCI video.
YCI is currently running in 12 countries, India being its latest addition. Each year, 57 leading hotels empower over 450 young people. Globally, 85% of graduates either go into employment or into further education. YCI is looking to grow in India with the next programme planned for New Delhi. Many Indian hotels have seen the value of this initiative and are keen to participate.