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Empowered to Rise: SMART Academies

Tech Mahindra SMART Academies help under-resourced youth to gain employable skills and RISE in life and society

Can women from vulnerable backgrounds beat the odds and achieve success? The real-life stories of five young women — Taira Begum, Tharani Chinnadurai, S. Saba Khan, Sonal Chavan and Sudharani Padam – are a positive note that can be traced to the activities of Tech Mahindra Foundation’s SMART (Skills for Market Training) Academies.

The SMART academies offer advanced and long-term courses to transform and uplift young people into world-class professionals. They form one of the pillars of Mahindra’s skilling initiatives that are focused on the protagonists of India’s economic growth story — the youth. Over the last 15 years, the Group has skilled 500,000 youth and created 100,000 jobs.

Taira Begum is one of the success stories. Taira was in her late 20s and a stay-at-home mother of two when a tragedy forced her to become the family’s sole breadwinner. Her husband was paralysed in an accident. Friends and relatives turned their back on her. She finally found a place for her family to stay in a distant relative’s house.

Taira Begum

Taira was looking for employment but she only had high school education and no formal training. The only work she found was as unskilled labour, and her earnings were barely enough to ensure two square meals for the family. It was irregular work at best. A friend advised her to apply for a place in the Tech Mahindra Foundation’s SMART (Skills for Market Training) Academies. A part of the Tech Mahindra Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, the SMART Academies were launched in May 2016 with the intent of offering more advanced and long-term courses in some specialised vocations. At present, the Foundation runs seven Tech Mahindra SMART Academies – three SMART Academies for healthcare, three for digital technologies and one for logistics. The goal of setting up these Academies was two-fold – to create, build and nurture youth to develop skills in specific industries and help transform them into world-class professionals.

To get admission into any Smart Academies, one needs to register and apply for the selected course. Candidates have to clear an entrance test followed by an interview. Taira aced the test and the interview and enrolled in a selected course in the logistics realm run by the SMART Academy in Delhi, which she felt had a lot of scope for growth and would give her the much-needed work-life balance at a nominal course fee.

The course provided her with the requisite skills and trained her to improve her networking, time management and communication skills. For any type of job, apart from technical skills, employers look for these attributes which the course helped her develop. After completing the course, Taira landed a job at a private company as an HR recruiter. Today, she is financially stable and supporting her family and ensuring that her children get a good education. The family has moved out of their relative’s home.

SMART (Skills for Market Training) is the Tech Mahindra Foundation’s flagship employability programme with 100 centres providing skill development in 12 cities. Over the years, SMART has successfully trained one lakh young men and women with a placement rate of over 75 percent. Its robust processes, stringent monitoring system and industry-led approach has created a model for scaling up skill development while maintaining high training standards.

Tharani Chinnadurai

Among the people who have benefitted from this programme is Tharani Chinnadurai, a girl who dreamt of breaking the gender barrier of her conservative community and become a gainfully employed member of society. During the COVID-19 induced lockdown, her father, the sole breadwinner of the family lost his job. With limited savings, they would have been in a tough situation if Tharani had not found herself a job. She had completed her training from the Tech Mahindra’s SMART Centre in Chennai when she was offered a job as a Coding Associate by Atos Syntel, an IT company. The family income thus continued and there was no need to dip into the savings. Tharani is happy to work in medical coding and sees a bright future in this sector. Helping her family navigate their way through a global pandemic is just an added benefit.

Saba Khan

S. Saba Khan’s story is similar. A child bride — she was a mother at the age of 18 and lost her husband by the time she was 19. She joined the academy for a paramedical course and is a General Duty Assistant at the Rotary Blood Bank, Noida. Today, Saba is an independent woman who shoulders the responsibility of her daughter and earns enough to take care of her mother and two younger brothers. Instead of being dependent on the family, she is caring for them. The Tech Mahindra SMART Academies for Healthcare are state-of-the-art paramedical training institutes. Till now, the three healthcare academies in New Delhi, Mumbai and Mohali have trained 1,057 youth to become world-class healthcare professionals.

Sonal Chavan

One of the students to graduate from the healthcare academy in Mumbai is Sonal Chavan. Hailing from a family of very limited means, Sonal was expected to support her family from an early age. The people suggested that she could take up unskilled jobs. But Sonal had bigger dreams. She completed the General Duty Assistant course at the SMART Academy for Healthcare in Mumbai. After completing her course, she joined at Seven Hills Hospital, a well-known hospital in the suburbs of Mumbai. Sonal is very happy that today she is earning a good and steady income and also helping the society. During the COVID-19 global pandemic Sonal got the opportunity to serve at the frontlines of the war against the Coronavirus. She says, "When I finished the training and received the PPE kit, tears rolled down my face. I felt like I have achieved something.”

Sudharani Padam

And such inspirational stories are the norm at SMART academies across the country. Take the tale of Sudharani Padam. Married as a child, Sudha became a mother and was confined within her home’s four walls. Though not unhappy, Sudha was looking for an opportunity to start contributing on the financial front. With her husband and family by her side, she enrolled at the Tech Mahindra SMART Academy for Digital Technologies, Vizag. After passing out successfully, she is now working with Vismaya Media House, a media firm as a Web Designer. These are only a few stories of how the Tech Mahindra SMART Academies have helped youth of both genders to gain employable skills and RISE up in life and society.

About SMART Centres and Academies

Launched in 2012, SMART (Skills for Market Training) is Tech Mahindra Foundation’s flagship employability programmes to empower youth from economically backward urban communities. It provides them with the requisite employability skills through structured training programs, ensuring they are placed in suitable dignified jobs. At SMART training centres, there are more than ten domains and 40 courses that students can undertake. Under this programme, there are SMART, SMART+ (for people with disabilities), and SMART-T (technical courses) centres operational across locations in India.

Following the SMART Centres’ success, the Foundation realised the need to foray in healthcare and initiated the SMART Academies for Healthcare which offer specialised diploma and certificate courses under our directly implemented programs. The Academies are state-of-the-art centres imparting high-quality training, with a blend of theory, practical and on-the-job training.

About Job Factory

Keeping aspirations of youngsters in mind, the Mahindra Group, as part of its 75th year celebration, has committed to skilling one million under-resourced youth by 2025. A coffee table book ‘The Job Factory’ that chronicles riveting stories of 75 young alumni of Mahindra Pride School was unveiled recently by Chairman Anand Mahindra. To download the book, click here (https://www.mahindra.com/resources/pdf/The-Job-Factory.pdf)

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