Turning Parent Objections Into Support to Promote Youth Employment
In the Indian tradition and culture, it is common for parents to be highly involved in their children’s decision-making processes, particularly regarding career choices. However, parental involvement can also sometimes be a barrier to youth employment. TechnoServe is engaging both youth and their parents to ensure that young people can pursue formal sector jobs with their parents’ support.
For the many young people in India who come from low-income families, the opportunity to land a formal job is a ticket to a better life. Nearly a quarter of young people ages 15-24 are unemployed — especially in urban areas, where job opportunities are scarce.
But despite graduating from college in increasing numbers, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds often struggle to navigate the job market and can lack many of the “soft skills” necessary for office work.
Since 2015, TechnoServe’s Campus to Corporate Careers (C2C) program has been working to empower economically disadvantaged youth in Mumbai and the surrounding areas. The program runs in over 50 colleges and is quickly expanding to other cities across India.
C2C’s model has been designed to act as a ‘career bridge’ for disadvantaged youth in their final year of college through an interactive blend of employability training, career counseling, and job placements to kickstart their careers in the formal sector. Thus far, the program has provided formal sector job employment for more than 11,000 youth throughout Mumbai.
Parental Barriers to Youth Employment
While the program has achieved impressive results since the pandemic hit, training more than 1,800 students since March and placing almost 150 of them in jobs, one of its biggest challenges has involved not the students themselves, but their parents. In the Indian tradition and culture, it is common for parents to be highly engaged with their children’s decisions.
According to a 2015 study, 82% of Indian parents are involved in deciding their child’s career path. Parents have a say in everything from which courses and training their children should pursue, which skills they require, what career path they should choose, and which employment options are most suitable.
However, this high degree of involvement can lead to challenges. Since the beginning of the C2C program, TechnoServe trainers have found they must not only help students manage a complicated job market, but also navigate how their parents felt about it. Often, even if young people feel ready to face formal sector job interviews and work environments, their parents — who typically work in the informal sector — are hesitant to allow their children to take on such careers.
While their concerns vary, some of the most common worries are:
- “How will my child travel so far?”
- “It is against our religion to work in a bank”
- “There is too much pressure in formal sector jobs”
- “I don’t want my daughter to meet unknown people in her sales job”
Though these concerns exist across the board, they are more pronounced when it comes to women graduates, who bear the brunt of societal and familial stigmas.
Introducing Parent Engagement Sessions
While it is common for parents to engage in their children’s career decisions, this impulse can be counterproductive when it comes from a place of gender bias, stereotypes, or over-protectiveness. To address this issue, the C2C program added parent engagement sessions to the curriculum in 2019 to build rapport with the parents of final-year college students and help them acclimate to the idea of their children finding formal employment. Through these sessions, parents can ask questions, voice their concerns, and eliminate any misconceptions about their children’s transitions to formal sector jobs.
Before this year, TechnoServe had been conducting these sessions in person. However, parents needed a lot of encouragement to attend, and attendance rates were low. Even if they did attend, parents were mostly reticent during the sessions — and to TechnoServe trainers’ disappointment — often continued to be the main reason their children withdrew from job opportunities.
A New Online Format
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, however, it forced the program team to move these sessions online. And suddenly, the team saw excellent participation – parents not only attended but were keen to keep their video on, ask questions, and share their concerns and personal stories openly.
A student’s mother, Mrs. Mishra, says, “TechnoServe has given an opportunity not only to the students but also to us parents to get updated with the latest technology and to interact with the trainer on a virtual platform.”
“My parents were happy to see that every student’s parents were present there to support their children,” says Ruchita Tiwari, a student at a local college. “My parents were unsure earlier, but now they both are supporting me to participate in TechnoServe’s program.”
The online parent engagement session starts with a short introduction to TechnoServe India, and then explains the services that the C2C program provides. It continues with a discussion about the career scope and placement opportunities available to the students. Later, there is an open Q&A session, which invites parents to express their questions and concerns.
TechnoServe has given an opportunity not only to the students but also to us parents to get updated with the latest technology and to interact with the trainer on a virtual platform.”
— Parent of a student in the C2C program
After one such session, a student’s mother commented: “The parent engagement session was really good. Our doubts about the kind of jobs our child will get and many other queries are solved. Also, during the lockdown period, our child has had the opportunity to learn something related to their job and career, which is good.”
Parent engagement, in these cases, has now turned out to be a positive influence on students in the C2C program. While overcoming deeply embedded social barriers will always be a challenge, the team has begun to see a shift. Parents feel more informed of their children’s decisions and know that there is someone they can approach if they continue to have concerns.
“I like this initiative,” states Ms. Vijaya, a partner college coordinator. “It brings a smile to my face to see these parents participate, share their own experiences, and ask questions so that they become more aware and support their children. It helps create a more informed and open interaction between the parents and the child, as both the parties are now more on the same track.”