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Pune’s new lighthouse guides turbulent youth to make smart choices

It provides underprivileged youth a chance to enhance their skills and start a career.

pune Updated: Jul 17, 2017 15:42 IST
Prachi Bari
Youngsters, men and women work on various platforms at the lighthouse in Aundh. The ‘lighthouses of Pune’ is a multi-disciplinary project with a holistic approach to skill development.
Youngsters, men and women work on various platforms at the lighthouse in Aundh. The ‘lighthouses of Pune’ is a multi-disciplinary project with a holistic approach to skill development.(Pratham Gokhale/HT PHOTO)

Vandana Pagare (53) had come to the Aundh lighthouse centre to drop her son Yogendra (20) but after spending a day at the centre, she asked the centre leader if she could join too. Lighthouse is a sustainable livelihood programme run by Pune City Connect in partnership with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). July will see the launch of yet another lighthouse in Hadapsar followed by another in Warje in August. 

The lighthouse provides the underprivileged youth of the city a chance to explore possibilities for enhancing their skills and pursue a meaningful career. 

“The target is to launch a lighthouse in each of the 15 ward offices in the city and have 100% digital literacy,” said Ganesh Natarajan, chairman, Pune City Connect, which was set up three years ago by various corporate heads like Dr Anand Deshpande, Anu Aga, Arun Nathani, Meher Pudumjee, Pradeep Bhargava, Rajan Navani, Rahul Kirloskar, Rati Forbes, Anshoo Gaur, Sheetal Bapat, and Ashwini Malhotra. “We are working on five tracks with the PMC. First one is providing skill sets, 100% digital literacy in Pune by 2020, then transformation of municipal schools, city transformation which can be described as the PMC commissioner’s war zone and citizen engagement where citizens are fully aware of what changes are happening in the city,” he said. These are supported by politicians, bureaucrats and even the corporates. 

The first lighthouse, launched in Aundh, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 25, 2016. “With one ‘lighthouse’ in every ward by 2018, the target is for 50,000 youth to graduate as part of the programme in the next five years,” said IIM Ahmedabad graduate, Ruchi Sharma, CEO of Pune City Connect.  

Pune City Connect is a non-profit company, set up to enable corporates, NGOs, citizens and the government to work together towards development of the city. 

‘The lighthouses of Pune’ is an initiative under the sustainable livelihood track. It is a multi disciplinary project, with a holistic approach to skill development. Most skill development programmes have not been able to penetrate among low-income youth. Typically, they get low enrolments and high drop outs. Lack of flexibility and personal development, along with an inability to unlock aspirations, have been significant causes of this phenomenon. The central idea of the lighthouses is to empower the youth and unlock their potential, starting with a change in their self-image. 

These centres, which run in partnership with the PMC, provide the underprivileged youth of Pune a chance to explore new possibilities, enhance their skills and pursue a meaningful career. 

Enrolling at the lighthouse is the beginning of an exciting journey for any youth. The process plays out in stages, with programmes designed to include technology, music and art, which ensure that the youth enjoy this transformative journey, thus, encouraging them to discover their sense of “self”. There are at least 50 youth in the centre in Aundh. They all undergo a foundation course, counselling session, and skills training. This transformative programme enables the youth to connect with their sense of dignity, hopes and aspirations. 

Sonal Gaikwad (28), a resident of Pimpale Gurav, is now enrolled in the learning spoken English class along with her other classmates. I lost my shop as I had no idea about the business before, a friend suggested I join this course and it has helped me immensely understand how to go about doing business too,” she said. 

Pune lighthouse tries to address this challenge by helping the youth understand the nuances of work performed with the skills acquired through smart applications of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality(VR). Using AR and VR for the first time in India in the context of skills training for communities. 

Tai Thosar (30), works as a computer operator in a clinic but coming to this centre has helped her boost her confidence. “I cycle from here where I spend my afternoon learning and then go to office for work. My parents live in the village and I need to earn better,” she said. 

Sujith Mandal (22) hails from a village in Bihar and works in the evening in a hotel in Baner. “I want to learn to speak better English and get a better job,” he says.

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The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) signed an MOU with Pune City Connect (PCC) on November 9, 2015. 

Four stages of the lighthouse programme 

1) Foundation programme- 40 to 50 hour course 

2) Counselling and market exploration which has one to one counselling 

3) Skills Training - Skilling/entrepreneurial / academic programmes offers an array of courses 

 4) Internships and placements - Employment / entrepreneurship / pursuit of higher education to help the youth decide their future.