On a warm September afternoon, a group of girls huddled round a table in an open air eatery.
Between coffee sips, Christopher Turillo, 34, a trainer from the United States, taught them how to make a bridge using newspapers, strong enough to support bricks.
Ordinarily, this leadership and team-building exercise can be seen in any skill development institute.
But here, a special classroom was at work at the canteen of Avadh Girls’ Degree College (AGDC) on Vikramaditya Marg.
Christopher, an MBA and MA from the US and his friend Byomkesh Mishra, a former bank employee have been working on improving the employability skills among graduation students of this college for a year now.
The idea is to promote job-readiness among them, particularly for those coming from non-privileged backgrounds.
The exercise is part of the project ‘Medha’ which is an Indian-American social setup based in Lucknow.
It is a partner of the National Skills Development Cor poration (NSDC).
Basically, it aims to bridge the gap between the skills demanded by industry and those imparted by the education system.
“It is based entirely on experiential and activity learning techniques and includes a onemonth internship component. Its curriculum has been developed in conjunction with leading employers and is tailored to meet their needs across sectors and industries,” said Christopher.
Currently, the programme is underway in Maharaja Bijli Pasi Government Degree College, apart from AGDC.
The graduation students of this prestigious government-aided college always get involved in extracurricular activities, but here the one-month programme is not just a fun way to spend an afternoon.
It’s a crucial source of skills which the students say, could be their ticket to a dream job after graduation or a higher degree.
Priyanka, a final year arts student who is part of the programme, was always oriented towards a government job.
“I originally got involved because I thought it would be fun, but being part of it has given me so much,” she says. “I’m more confident now and do not mind doing a private job.”
The training that includes on campus classes and outstation tours to high-end hotels and showrooms in Lucknow is the buzzword, both at AGDC and Bijli Pasi College in Aashiana.
Christopher admits that more efforts are needed to train students in the Aashiana college as most of them come from comparatively humble backgrounds.
Tackling the general inclination towards hard-to-get government jobs, students work on ways to boost their chances of finding employment in the private sector.
Toward this end, the programme offers an employability education programme to students studying in public sector colleges, provided on-campus and at a subsidised fee.
“We believe that employability as a process should be incorporated into the education system itself, reducing the need for students to go beyond the gates of their institution to acquire the skills required for gainful employment,” said Christopher, who is an MBA from University of Chicago and MA (International Relations) from John Hopkins University in the US.
Depending on the response, the duo would replicate the programme in other colleges of the city.