Priya Agrawal

Ashoka Fellow
India
Fellow Since 2015

Citation

This profile was prepared when Priya Agrawal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
Priya is taking at risk children - school dropouts/potential dropouts in urban slum communities, juveniles in conflict with the law and those engaged in the informal, exploitative sector - through a transformative journey which enables them to articulate their desired career paths, set goals and chart a realistic course of action to achieve them. Her work is ensuring that children from this underprepared space who would otherwise not even be able to consider formal employment options get an opportunity to do so. By enabling them to become actors, film producers, scuba divers, accountants, or entrepreneurs who start small enterprises, she is breaking stereotypes around job opportunities for children from low income backgrounds, moving them from exploitative work spaces and preparing them for the growing organized sector in India. The projected demand of 500 million people with skills for the organised sector bears testimony to the need in the sector.

Priya is repurposing ‘employability’ programs for these youth from ones that focus on the most easily available low skill requirement jobs to ones that can empower youth with the social wherewithal and deliberate long term plan to pursue a ‘career’ of their choice. She enables the most vulnerable children to align their reality and aspiration while simultaneously becoming more confident. Her ‘career ready’ program is designed to ensure that they have support to not only ‘get placed’ but also have the skills and backing to navigate and adapt to new environments post placement. For example, seeing social and cultural gaps being critical in many youth dropping out of jobs, she conducts sessions to expose them to settings that may typically cause discomfort to children from low income backgrounds, such as restaurants or office conference rooms or western toilets. She has also built a strong community of professionals who come on board as mentors to guide the youth until they successfully complete the first year on their final placements. This has helped ensure that dropout rate of her graduates in the first year of placement is only 20% (as against national average of 80%).

Priya has identified missing pieces that are the cause of failure of traditional career linkage programs (particularly for at risk youth) and has designed a sequence of interventions that can be plugged into existing models to help them reach their full potential. She demonstrates the entire chain of the interventions through her work at Antarang and sees opportunity in tapping Government schemes that focus on training the youth toward employment and other citizen sector organisations in that aim to reinstate at risk youth to scale her impact.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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