Providing youth with disabilities access to work while creating pathways within companies for successful employment of these youth
Pitch us on your solution
The vision is to have the largest impact globally in linking youth with disabilities to sustained livelihoods Most often, vulnerable groups like disabled get left out of skilling programs. Without economic empowerment, the disabled remain stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty. The primary innovation in Y4J's model lies in transforming the narrative from rehabilitation to empowering them to become economically independent. This comes from combining a sound understanding of market needs with strong empathy for youth with disabilities.
A key complexity in this work is job roles do not exist in companies. Y4J has to continuously innovate to open up new job roles across high growth industries. In the automotive sector, hardwiring best practices in Valeo resulted in jobs for 85 youth in two plants. This work won the first Inclusion Award instituted in France, competing against 3500 global locations.
What is the problem you are solving?
India will have the largest youth pool by 2020. If these are not adequately skilled to the needs of the market, economists predict a demographic disaster. Companies, on the other hand, complain of lack of skilled manpower and talk of a "warfare for talent".
World Bank reports state India has 70-80 million persons with disabilities. Their employment rates are 0.1%. Youth4Jobs addresses this future of work challenge by skilling youth with disabilities and presenting them to corporate India as an untapped skilled labor pool which benefits their business. Simultaneously, it works with companies to create an enabling eco-sphere to help youth with disabilities be productive. This includes sensitization of managers at all levels, making simple workplace adaptations, accessibility audit; technology adoption and adaptation, etc. Companies find attrition gets reduced and productivity increases. Y4J also brings out studies on the inclusion of PwDs in fast-growing industry sectors like banking and financial services; hospitality; e-commerce which highlights best practices and best practitioners and indicates a way forward for the industry.
Who are you serving?
There are 1 billion persons with disability globally. 785 million are in the working age group. World Bank states India has a population of 70-80 million with disabilities. 69% live in villages. They lack social support, have limited access to basic services like health. PwD are caught in a vicious cycle where disabilities increase poverty and poverty accentuates disabilities, as it hampers access to services. Ostracism against the disabled people is high. Girls with disabilities suffer from double discrimination of gender and disability. Myths persist that girls with disabilities are a curse or bad omen. Since the community does not recognize them as a productive asset but views them as a burden, youth have low self-esteem.
There are other challenges which exclude them from the digital economy. Youth with disabilities in villages are dispersed geographically and difficult to reach. Since the dominant thinking is this is an unproductive population, investments in education are not made. For example, in the schools for the blind, there are no special educators or computer labs. Outdated methodologies are used resulting in high dropouts from school. Education and employment levels are low with limited access to markets, digital literacy, and sustained livelihoods.
What is your solution?
Youth4Jobs strategy has evolved, responding to PwD needs and market demands. While it's focus is skilling and employment, Y4J integrated backward into education to bring systemic change in disability.
* Education - Adopting government Schools of disabled to prevent dropouts and step up enrolment, especially for girls with disabilities. Computer labs are set up and technology lessons introduced.
*Skilling & Employment: These interconnected skilling and services focus on expanding job opportunities for PwDs, creating a sensitive eco-sphere in companies so that the hired youth is productive and mainstreaming of PwD hiring happens.
Y4J Supports PwDs College enrolment (government mandates 5%, current levels being 0.5%), imparts technical & technology training & links them to jobs. For lesser educated rural youth, residential short- term training centres are set up to impart generic skills like English, computers, life skills, on- job training and linked to jobs.
Company Connect: includes services to sensitize companies and map opportunities
Knowledge hub: Studies brought out inspire/help industry understand best practices in hiring PwDs
*Advocacy is a cross-cutting theme which gets key stakeholders like youth, parents, companies, and government onto one platform
In 7 years, Youth4Jobs has become the largest organization for skilling youth with disabilities with job placements. Bihar and Nagaland centres are being set up through government requests. Strong building blocks have been laid with a team passionate about impact. Y4J is poised to scale further with ownership from key stakeholders like government, community and companies.
Select only the most relevant.
Where is your solution team headquartered?Hyderabad, Telangana, India
Our solution's stage of development:Scale
Select one of the below:New application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Some organizations offer select inclusion services like sensitization workshops; others skill youth without placements.
Youth4 Jobs is positioned as a one-stop shop for companies who want to begin/strengthen their inclusion journey.
Y4J is unique in several ways
- Offers companies a supply of less educated and educated trained youth with disabilities, across India
- Offers companies services like accessibility audit, job role matrix, workplace adaptations, technology solutions, etc. to ensure the hired youth is productive. Services are added continuously based on company needs.
- Encourages companies to measure productivity and attrition to demonstrate hiring PwD benefits for business
- Y4J team has people with corporate and social sector experience, knit by a passion to make a difference The Founder is acknowledged as a pioneer in market-linked skilling of underprivileged youth, having worked in a senior government position and multilateral funders She believes simplicity in design coupled with technology results in high impact.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
Technology is the heart of Y4J skilling. Presently it is used in 4 ways
a) digital literacy to all trainees
b) Special technology which aids learning for specific disabilities
c) Monitoring project outcomes and progress
d) Advocacy to companies through Smart Inclusion Centres (SIC) on low-cost technology devices which help youth with disabilities to be productive at workplaces.
Every youth is oriented in digital literacy. Visually impaired youth are trained in the Jaws/NVDA software which enables them to access global information with mobile accessibility. In some centers, coding & mobile accessibility trainings are given for specific company requirements.
A technology-enabled MIS captures data of trainees across all skilling centers. This tracks enrolment, dropouts, assessments, placements, salary of alumni, etc. It increases transparency & helps Y4J to analyze and feed learnings back to improve delivery quality.
In these SICs, in colleges, technology will enable student enrollment, assessment, training at the college itself. IT companies will showcase their accessibility tools & gadgets in the SICs to increase awareness of technological advances.
Future plans include developing an e-sensitisation module with support of global volunteers from SAP who spent one month with Y4J team. The blueprint of the project has been drawn up. Y4J also plans to use technology for matching youth skills to company requirement through an app in its skilling programs. The focus here will be on the special needs of the speech and hearing-impaired youth who form a large part of the disabled youth pool.
In which countries do you currently operate?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Youth4Jobs has trained 16500 youth with disabilities from 10,675 villages across India and placed 78% in jobs.
Deloitte carried out a third-party assessment of Youth4Jobs work. Their findings:
- None of the surveyed trainees with disabilities had any income previously
- Average annual household income was Rs 1,68,878/-
- PwDs complete dependency on parents for daily subsistence
Transformation post intervention
- Average annual income of candidates are found to be INR 94,474/-
- Alumni contributed close to 53% of their family income
- Families began investing in health and education of younger siblings
- Alumni expressed confidence in achieving their aspirations for a better future
- Their status transformed from ignored, ridiculed members of the community to respected members
For youth with disabilities, a job is not just a job. It is an opportunity to break away from the vicious cycle of disability and poverty. Most parents are marginal farmers depending on rainfed agriculture and erratic incomes. The regular income the disabled youth earns pulls the entire family out of poverty in a sustained manner, resulting in the number of beneficiaries being far higher.
While the work benefits companies, the impact on youth with disability, especially girls, is magical. ( TEDxBerkeley)
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
For Y4J, the key indicators of success are:
- Number of households reached
- Number of youth with disabilities enrolled
- Number of youth recruited by companies
- Number of company managers/supervisor/CEOs sensitized
- We also encourage companies to measure productivity metrics at workplace and attrition rates.
The top three goals are:
* Mainstreaming hiring of youth with disabilities
* Building models for employability for other disabilities
* Scaling access to sustainable livelihoods to other talent pools with disabilities.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
- Risk: Reaching out to rural disabled youth who are in dispersed geographies and motivating youth to enroll in trainings
- Risk: Employer/Companies mindset on hiring the disabled: Many companies have a mindset that the disabled will only be suitable for a very narrow set of job roles. They always see their disability and not the existing potential/abilities.
* Risk: Ensuring quality with scale
This can be customized to local situations
- Invested in systematic processes with monitoring through technology
- Risk Attracting good talent with Company CSR paying their staff high salaries
+ Build capacities of employees and show them a career path
+ Identified second-generation leadership so that transition is seamless.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
Solution: Trained community mobilizers to reach out to the PwD youth and motivate them with a specially designed kit. This also results in community ownership which is important for scale.
Y4J has designed special interactive modules for sensitizing the corporate on how employing PwD makes business sense Each program has a capsule of basics of Sign Language to make people comfortable communicating with the Deaf PwDs & an interactive capsule of experiencing blindness and thus discovering other senses. Disabled youth in jobs share their life-changing experiences.
- Y4J has built a simple template which suits youth aspirations and market needs
Solution Recruiting not based on degrees but competence and passion to make a difference to lives
How many people work on your solution team?
The founder, Meera Shenoy.
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Youth4Jobs is headquartered in Hyderabad, India. The work is spread across 32 locations in 16 states. The locations chosen are
a) poorest states of India like Bihar, Jharkhand which is the need of the country
b) conflict-ridden states like Nagaland where development indicators are low
c) Tier-2 cities like Coimbatore
d) Main metros with a large company base.
These centers have Project executives responsible for center performance with trainers and sign language instructors. Six centers report to a Regional Manager and 5 Regional Managers report to the Operational Head. The Operational Head is supported by a Learning and Development and Quality manager. Use of technology, both for monitoring the program quality and targets with SOPs in place, help achieve program objectives.
The College Connect program works with educated youth. It is concentrated in the south and west where Youth4Jobs has forged partnerships with prestigious universities like the University of Hyderabad and the University of Mumbai. Binding both Skilling programs is the Company Connect team which focuses on delivering the services to create a sensitive eco-sphere for the hired youth and opens up continuously company networks.
Y4J has achieved some scale with quality and impact in just 7years. Today it is chosen as a model of excellence by governments, funders and multilateral corporations who invite Y4J to partner in their programs. Strong building blocks coupled with a good team and inspirational leadership will help in achieving the mission in this challenging but transformational work.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
- National HRD Showcase award in HR 2020
- FICCI-Flo Woman Achiever for bringing societal change -2018
- Synchrony Financials for support in hiring speech and hearing impaired and being a Leader in Inclusion-2018
- National Award for Empowerment of PwD, 2017 in the Skilling and placement category, conferred by the President of India
- Rotary Change Maker -2017
- Woman Super Achiever award by World HRD congress -2016
- Vodafone Woman of Substance Award -2016
- Americares Spirit of Humanity award-2016
- Zero Project award - global Innovator, UN headquarters, Vienna, 2016 and 2017
- First Inclusion award constituted in France was won by Valeo, Chennai - Youth4Jobs 2016
What is your business model?
Y4J'S annual budget is Rs.10 crores ($1.5 million USD), largely through company CSR grants.
Y4Js work scales with funders who believe in their vision & competencies. It plans to grow two lines of work as a sustainable revenue stream to gradually reduce dependence on grants
1. Fee for hiring models for educated youth and bespoke consultancy for inclusive hiring.
2. Y4J offers a range of services focusing on building capacities of employers and supporting them to begin or strengthen their journey of inclusion. Companies that decide to take that path require significant support in building empathy among employees, mapping specific roles, training on special skills (such as sign language) & continued mentoring. These are low cost & constitute about 20% of the annual budget. The need for these services will increase with the new Right to PwD Act 2017 which mandates their right to employability in public & private sector.
Why are you applying to Solve?
India has 18 million speech and hearing impaired (SHI). Most use sign language. There is no sign language content for training youth and supporting companies who hire. 50% who register in Y4J trainings are SHI youth. If selected as a Solver, funding will be spent on developing a mobile app where SHI youth and companies hiring these youth register to match youth skills with company requirements. Driving youth and companies to the app will be a digital platform with customized content for the employee and employer, both of which Youth4Jobs understands well. Team of 5 will be hired for content creation, branding & marketing
Meera Shenoy Founder-CEO, Youth4Jobs Foundation