July 15, 2015 marks the inauguration of the first ever World Youth Skills Day. This day was first proposed by Sri Lanka to highlight the challenges youth in developing countries face with the social, cultural and humanitarian issues that contribute to their high unemployment rates.

The youth unemployment rate currently sits at 74.5 million worldwide, highlighting the great need for programs that help youth, especially in developing countries, empower themselves by gaining vocational skills and the ability to make educated work and life choices.

Rag picking

Currently in New Delhi, India, around 1.8 million people live in slum areas where high crime rates, violence and minimal access to food and clean water are the norm. In one of these sprawling slums, New Seemapuri, poverty stricken children are reduced to ‘rag-picking’, the act of sifting through garbage for materials to sell and recycle to survive.

Understanding the risks, lack of education and need for youth skills in this area, we opened a vocational training center to empower young people and help them cultivate the skills that can put them on track for a brighter future.

We offer training in art, cosmetology, dress making/tailoring, traditional henna painting and computer engineering. We also encourage children to become peer educators after they finish their own training so that they can reach out to other vulnerable youth of the area and encourage them to join the center.

Girl in Vocational Training Center

Through sites like this vocational training center, we’ve created hundreds of employment opportunities and have helped equip youth with the qualifications they need to attend a university or start a job that interests them. One such success story is that of Sarita, who joined the New Seemapuri training center in 2001. At the center, Sarita was trained to become a beautician and eventually went on to become a peer educator, helping young girls just like her at the center. Another success story is that of Pintu who ran away from home when he was just ten years old to escape physical abuse. Despite his difficult start in life, Pintu achieved great success in the vocational training center, where he studied, became a peer educator and now is looking to join us full time in IT.

Boys in vocational training center

The success story of our vocational training center is one of the many reasons why World Youth Skills Day was created in the first place — to celebrate the existing programs that help youth while bringing attention to the fact that there’s a need for more centers like these in developing countries.

With 1 billion children worldwide living in poverty, programs must be implemented to help them develop the professional skills that are vital to society’s continued progress and success.

Let’s celebrate today in recognition of past efforts, but let’s also look to the future to ensure we continue supporting the success of youth worldwide.

By Satya Naageshwaran