The landscape of the Uttarakhand state mainly consists of lower Himalayan hills to its south and snow-clad mountains and the plateau of Tibet on its northern border. Though the perennial and sacred rivers like the Ganga and Jamuna originate in the state, much of the land is not arable as it’s rocky and less fertile. Villages cling to hill slopes, and hence terraced farming is widely practised. The region is still an agriculture-dominated economy as the scope for industrialization is limited.
However, traditional farming economy can no longer support the population growth in the mountains, hence, youth migrate to the plains in search of alternative livelihoods. There is a great demand for workers who possess vocational skills in the growing Indian economy.
Himalayan Inter College (HIC), recognizing the need for professionals with skills in various trades, started implementing vocational training courses for its students in 2022. The initiative not only increases the students’ employability when they graduate, but also can help them start their own small businesses. There is intense competition for the limited government jobs, and private sector industry jobs are almost nonexistent. However, there is always a demand for workers who can provide services in automobile repair, carpentry, fabrication, electrical house wiring, solar engineering, organic farming etc. in the plains and hills.
At present, the vocational training program at HIC is open for students from class 6 to class 10. Each week, two sessions are allocated for teaching skills in trades like organic farming, arts and crafts, and sewing. A class is divided into three groups, each assigned to one of those trades. At the end of 3 months, they complete a module in that trade and go for another trade. Thus, in 9 months, they undergo training in all three trades. Currently there are about 450 students who are undergoing this skills development program at HIC.
These training sessions are a must for all the students, boys and girls. As they progress, advanced training is given in the higher classes, and the students can opt to specialize in a trade of their interest. At present, three instructors are teaching the vocational classes at HIC. Himalayan Education Foundation supports the program by providing financial assistance towards the salaries for the instructors.
In November 2022, Sewpportive Friends, an NGO working in women’s health, conducted a workshop for women and girls on making reusable sanitary pads. During that time, Julie Phippen from Sewpportive Friends observed that few participants knew how to sew and that sewing machines were unavailable at home or at school. Realizing the importance of sewing skills in a rural community, Sewpportive Friends donated 16 modern electric sewing units to HIC to develop the much-needed skills of the students.
In implementing the vocational skills program at HIC, this generous assistance from Sewpportive friends has been very helpful in starting the Sewing training course. It is useful in training students who want to work in the garment or fashion industry or want to start their enterprises.
Thanks to the Himalayan Education Foundation and Sewpportive Friends, HIC can impart skills to students that will help them create better economic opportunities for themselves. It’s one significant step towards women’s empowerment that will go a long way in making the local Himalayan communities flourish and thrive in the modern world.