Project Jyoti helps the underserved enter the job market by enabling them with IT skills

Brijesh Kumar Shakya, 22, becomes nostalgic as he shares his experiences with a batch of trainees at a Community Technology Learning Centre (CTLC) in Gurgaon. After all, this is the same centre where he underwent IT and soft skill training a few months ago that enabled him get a corporate job that fetches him Rs 11,000 a month compared to the Rs 3500 he used to earn earlier in a courier company. For this college dropout, life has taken a full circle since 2009 when he first came to Delhi looking for a job. He even wants to resume his studies which family circumstances forced him to discontinue when he was in second year of college.

Sonia, from the current batch, was forced to quit studies after Class X. Though this is her first exposure to the computer, she hopes the training will help transform her life.

Changing lives is exactly what Project Jyoti —a community technology skills programme -- is all about. For the initiative IT major Microsoft has teamed up with 14 development organisations across the country. The project targets the underprivileged and exposes them to the use of IT. Jyotiis one of the many initiatives that Microsoft has taken under its ‘Unlimited Potential' programme to serve communities across the world.

The idea is to make the trainees employable and enhance their earning potential by imparting basic computing skills. Although Jyoti primarily targets women and youth, according to the company it welcomes people of all ages and abilities to learn about computers, use the Internet, explore new careers, further their education and awareness, participate in community activities or develop technology skills by coming to the CLTCs. Apart from IT-enabled skills, training is imparted in other vocational skills such as Automobile technology, Electrical technology, Hospitality and Sales and Marketing. Soft skills including spoken English and personality development are a part of the curriculum.

The duration of training is usually four months but can be extended up to six months depending on the pace at which the trainee learns. “Generally, in some of the tribal and rural areas with extremely low literacy rates, the work becomes more challenging. We try to adjust ourselves according to the learning levels of the trainees,” said Mr Arvind Rawat, a representative from Aide et Action, the organisation in charge of training facilities at the Gurgaon centre.

Manju Dhasmana, community affairs manager of Microsoft India, says, “….Every year, about 100,000 people are trained and more than 70 per cent are helped to be placed in jobs. Since 2004, the programme has benefited more than 40 million people and there are over 1400 centres across the country.”

“We have never called it a Microsoft project… It is not grants but partnership that we provide,” said Mr Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft Corporation, told The Hindu.

He added that the main goals of project Jyoti and other similar ones elsewhere in the world are to reach out to the most vulnerable population and accelerate their productivity. He adds that with the rapid proliferation of cellular telephony, the digital divide may have been bridged to certain extent but an ‘opportunity divide' continues to exist across the globe and this is where a project like Jyoti comes in.

And opportunity was what young people like Sonia, Arif and Harkesh were looking for when they joined this IT enabling programme. In between typing out their resumes on a computer and learning about the design of an internal combustion engine, they dream of a better future. Arif, for instance, wants to become a lawyer. His immediate goal may be to bag a job using his newly acquired computer skills, but he also understands how crucial computers are to any profession he takes up.

“I am self sufficient now,” says Brijesh with a confident voice -- a confidence not without a reason.