Armed with vocational training certificates, students with intellectual disabilities look for job opportunities

It was a convocation ceremony with a difference and the first of its kind in the country. Though graduation caps were not hurled into the air, hopes soared for a bright future ahead as 31 students came up to the dais one by one to receive their IGNOU Certificates in Vocational Training in the Capital this weekend.

Part of the Manovikas-Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Community College, the students had completed a six-month certification in vocations of their choice and ability. The vocations, related to the potential to find a job, include Hospitality, Retail Assistance, Office Attendant, Basic Business, Soft Skills and Information Technology are open to disabled students above 14 years of age, who are offered, along with the course, internships that provide experience in workplace conditions.

The first college that caters to the need for persons with developmental delays, it has, in a sense, become a model that needs to be replicated across the country. While the vocational courses are certificated credit courses, non-credit customized courses are also available to train youngsters in personal management, peer sexuality and basic reading, writing plus math skills.

“I’d like to work in a hotel and am proud of my certification,” says a confident Tushar Ahuja from Delhi who is interning at Bharat Guest House and hoping to get a good break in the hospitality sector. Sweta Taing, too, is now armed with a hospitality certification and is currently working with a boutique close to her home. Her mother Dr. Vijaya Taing who left her post as a lecturer to empower her daughter, says, “I am using my capability to guide others as well.”

Suku Rupesh from Hyderabad has another dream. He would like to see his Office Attendant certification get him a job in the South Central Railways. “Suku has speech impairment, but he is a good worker and a quick learner,” says his 80-year-old grandfather T.S. Ramaswamy, who is attending the convocation and has been running from pillar to post to get his grandson a post in the Railways.

Dr. Alok Kumar Bhuwan, Founder Managing Secretary, Manovikas, the brain child of the community college and who also runs an independent living unit for disabled adults, says, “This is just a beginning…We have a long way to go to develop many more colleges in the country.”

As more students approach the Community College for admissions for the next batch of vocational certification, there is hope that more business houses will come forward to take on interns as well as give jobs to those who successfully complete the course. As of now Community College students are working with the Haldiram food chain, the Barista coffee outlets, Hotel Sunshine, Kiran’s Restaurant, Banjara and Paramount Cables Ltd. “We’d like more companies to come forward and be counted in giving employment to our young adults with intellectual disabilities,” said an activist in the disability sector.