P Kirubakaran’s future looked bleak. The poor financial situation of his family meant he could not pursue any education beyond the X standard he had managed. The family was in debt, he had a sister to be married… Whichever way you looked at it, Kirubakaran’s glass was empty.

Till Saint-Gobain India stepped into the picture. The glass-maker four years ago launched a programme to skill underprivileged youth in association with Nettur Technical Training Foundation, an Indo-Swiss cooperation for technical education.

The first batch of this programme is ready to graduate from Saint-Gobain India Training Centre later this week and join the company’s workforce.

Training with stipend Saint-Gobain India, a part of the €40-billion French multinational Saint-Gobain, devised the ‘Learn While Earn’ programme for 18-23 year olds with at least X standard education to train them in modern manufacturing skills.

Over the next couple of years, the company hopes the training centre will meet all of its fresh recruitment though the students are free to look at opportunities elsewhere.

Saint-Gobain makes glass for use in construction, automobile and specialised applications and recruits 100-150 diploma holders every year. But students from the conventional education system are not industry-ready and have only theoretical knowledge.

An enthusiastic B Santhanam, Managing Director, Saint-Gobain India, is convinced that the training model should be scaled up in major industrial hubs across the State to tackle the problem of shortage of skilled human resource. Companies should come together to offer such programmes and the government can support them with viability gap funding wherever needed, he says.

Hands-on experience

Under the Saint Gobain-NTTF initiative, after two years of study followed by two years of hands-on-experience at the company’s factory at Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, the candidate is equal to somebody who has a two-year working experience after a conventional diploma, says a visibly proud Santhanam.

Each student is paid a stipend of ₹5,000 a month in the first year and this increases progressively to reach ₹10,000 a month in the fourth year.

But the cost to Saint-Gobain is about ₹18,000 a month for each student.

A part of the stipend is given to the students and one portion goes to their parents; convincing them to send their wards to be trained for a career rather than sending them for unskilled job for immediate income is a challenge, he says.

Rest of the stipend is saved and returned as a lumpsum to the students at the end of the course.

“Every year our route to taking in people will only be through this system,” says a beaming Santhanam.

This certainly offers much hope for youngsters like Kirubakaran, whose glass now looks certainly half-full.

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