Twenty-year-old Komal Ghag is the eldest of four siblings. After finishing high school, Komal took up a job, not to build her career, but to help support her family overcome financial difficulties.
A couple of years into the job, she felt left out by her friends who had continued their education and were on their way to getting a degree. Komal enrolled in AIF’s Market Aligned Skills Training (MAST) program at Mumbai University and completed a six-month course in retail management, arming herself with skills needed for the modern economy.
By 2020, India will be home to 700 million people of working age like Komal, a harbinger of great demographic change that, if leveraged properly, has the potential transform the country into an economic power. Faster, more inclusive and sustainable growth can only be made possible by a highly skilled workforce. Skills development is more critical than ever. AIF’s MAST program provides underprivileged youth with skills training and access to formal employment opportunities to help India seize the opportunity for inclusive growth. Having trained more than 100,000 young people for more than a decade, AIF has begun expanding and extending its model beyond the nonprofit sector, starting with a new partnership with Mumbai University’s Garware Institute of Career Education and Development (GICED) to impart skills training to youth. India’s unique demographic characteristics demands that a customized solution be devised—to ensure that skills development systems deliver both the quantity and the qual- ity of training needed. The MAST project at Mumbai University is proving that connecting basic education to skills training, skills training to labor market entry, and labor market entry to workplace is a successful model.
At Mumbai University, recruiters from leading retail chains and the hospitality industry conducted campus interviews at a job fair organized by the MAST program team. Beaming with confidence and joy, Komal announced that she had excelled in the interview and received a job offer from a national clothing retail chain. “After dropping out, I thought it would take me another three years to acquire a degree and put me on par with my friends, but the skills I picked up through MAST helped me to get this job and in a much shorter time. I’m looking forward to a career in retail,” she says.
The MAST program gives hope to people like Komal, helping them to build their foundation skills and gain important workplace skills for a successful transition from school to work. Soon to be home to one-fifth of the world’s working-age population, India’s path to becoming a high performance nation is certainly going to be shaped by its ability, at scale, to impart market-relevant skills to its youth and MAST is helping to close the gap.