Skilling unorganised sector workers

EducationWorld April 14 | Cover Story Education World

Founded in 2006, LabourNet has developed a sustainable end-to-end 4 E solution — empowerment through education, employability  and employment — for the informal sector labour

The low-profile Bangalore-based Movement for Alternatives for Youth Awareness (Maya, estb.1989) is a “development organisation working to address systemic issues of child labour through building empowered human institutions of the poor”. Over the years, this NGO has established four initiatives — Maya Organic to empower informal sector workers; Prajyatna to research and initiate reforms in elementary education; LabourNet which skills informal and unorganised sector workers, and Maya Health which endeavours to create socio-economic conditions to enable the provision of high quality, affordable primary healthcare to all. 
Maya’s LabourNet initiative was started in 2006 to “provide a one-stop platform for unorganised sector workers to obtain services which are currently available and accessible to formal sector workers”. Since then, it has developed a sustainable end-to-end 4E Solution — empowerment through education, employability and employment.

“We are a social enterprise focused on increasing the real income of informal sector workers by improving their productivity through vocational education and training (VET), and what we define as ‘decent work’ with social protection,” says Gayathri Vasudevan, an economics and social work alumna of Delhi and Bombay universities with a Ph D in development studies awarded by the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore. She has led the LabourNet initiative ab initio and has scaled it into a countrywide enterprise. All LabourNet VET programmes are in sync with the qualifications framework of the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC).

Looking back over the past eight years since LabourNet was launched, Vasudevan is modestly satisfied that a scalable VET model for neglected labour in the unorganised sector — who constitute 90 percent of India’s 480 million workers in all sectors of the economy — has been developed. “In less than a decade of its launch, LabourNet has established 40 livelihood centres and over 90 worksite training units in 11 states countrywide which have trained and skilled over 100,000 workers who are earning wages between Rs.6,000-12,000 per month. We ensure all youth trained by us are placed, and receive counseling services until they can work independently. Another achievement of which we are proud is that we have developed capability assessment standards for long-neglected trades such as carpentry, plumbing, electricity maintenance, tile laying, masonry etc,” says Vasudevan.

With LabourNet’s VET programmes in conformity with the stringent standards mandated by NSDC, and its graduates experiencing a surge in productivity and incomes, Vasudevan is set to roll out LabourNet nationally. “We have identified three sectors — services, construction and manufacturing — on which we will focus our training and skilling efforts. In addition, we are also developing VET programmes which will give a significant boost to agriculture productivity in the states of UP, MP, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh. We expect these skills development initiatives will give a huge boost to national economic growth rates,” says Vasudevan optimistically.

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