Making informed career decisions.

An analysis of the kind of career decisions taken up by women trainees after their ITI training.

We live in a world of paradoxes and the declining participation of women in the labour force is one such reality that has become a cause of concern and shame for all of us. Despite rising-levels of education in women, year-on-year, the Female Labour Force Participation Rate(FLPR) of women in India is on the decline. This dismal trend represents the way women are perceived in our households, forced to make compromises at every step of their career journeys.

“I was interested in studying engineering but my parents asked me to join this Industrial Training Institute (ITI) and study the beautician course – they did not want me to do an office job and this ITI was near our house,” says Radhika (name changed), Student, State Govt Women ITI

Radhika’s reality is not uncommon among women, who pursue vocational education in government-run women ITIs. The pandemic has only made matters worse and further exacerbated this gender divide in the workforce. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), as of November 2020, 67% of all men of working age (15-64) were employed, in comparison to just 9% of women, who were employed in the same period of time.

The second wave of the pandemic which was more intense and led to an exponentially large number of deaths has made it even more difficult for women to enter the workforce. But, amidst this grim reality, are there new trends in employment for women that have emerged?

“Earlier I was looking for jobs related to my trade but there were so many issues like low salary, timings and distance from home. I then came across a tele-calling role which paid more and I was able to convince my family to take it up, even though it had nothing to do with my trade,” says Nikitaben Tadvi, an alumna of Basic Cosmetology from NSTI, Vadodara.

In March 2021, Quest Alliance analysed the placement trends of 3983 women graduating from ITIs and NSTIs across Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. We specifically looked at what sectors and roles working alumni have taken up.

According to the study, during the pandemic, 46% of the working alumni opted for non-trade based employment, garnering a monthly income of Rs. 8400 which is Rs.600 more than income from trade-specific employment.

This finding must be placed in the context of the challenges women face in ITIs to convince families to allow them to pursue a career. Family support (or the lack of it) plays a pivotal role in key career decisions made by women post course completion. Factors like distance from home & perceptions about the type of jobs women can do play a significant role in ensuring if a young woman enters the workforce.

The findings in that respect indicate that women in ITIs were able to negotiate with families to take up non-trade specific job roles owing to higher average monthly incomes and greater flexibility with respect to location and job timings. New employment options like work from home due to the pandemic has also helped many women enter the workforce.

“I used to work as a teacher before the pandemic. But after I lost my job, I decided to take up a work from home job opportunity as a telecaller. I get paid Rs. 12,000 a month and work from the convenience of my home,” says Janvi Harvi, an alumna of fashion design technology from Govt. ITI, Junagad (woman).

The study also looked into state-specific trends and offered insights on the kind of jobs women in ITIs were pursuing post course-completion.

While Delhi had 42% working alumni who took up trade-specific jobs; Rajasthan on the other hand had 74% women working in trade-specific jobs. The difference in states may be attributed to availability of trade-specific industry, migrant population in a region and the perception of families regarding the kind of employment suitable for women.

Quest Alliance’s intervention in women ITIs and NSTIs since the past four years has helped influence deep seated perceptions in families about the need for women to enter the workforce, and the kind of jobs they can take up. Activities like virtual parent engagement initiated by Quest Alliance in collaboration with ITIs and NSTIs, during the pandemic, have given parents an opportunity to both understand and support the aspirations of their daughters.

“I promise to support my daughter in her career and bring up marriage only when she is of the right age to take decisions on this,” says Jitendra Kumar, a parent of an ITI student in Delhi

Additionally, the Placement Officers in ITIs and NSTIs have also played a pivotal role in negotiating with parents to support their daughters to take up non-trade based jobs. Events like virtual job fairs, industry guest sessions, and job drives organized in collaboration with Quest Alliance have gone a long way in supporting women students in ITIs find a job despite the pandemic.

“The one thing that I am really proud of as a Placement Officer is that even during the pandemic, we were able to place our trainees via a virtual job fair. In UP, women trainees are weary of the private sector. They think that as women the only thing they can do is work as trainers in ITIs or as teachers for the government. It is this deep rooted mindset that we are up against. And, every placement in the private sector feels like a small victory” says Neerja Sood, PO, NSTI (W), Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh

The intervention by Quest Alliance in collaboration with ITIs and NSTIs across states in India is a testament to the fact that a concerted effort in changing deep rooted perceptions about women entering the workforce can bring in long-term behavioral change in families and encourage more women to enter the workforce.

An ecosystem level approach involving all stakeholders (parents, students & institutes) has helped women students in ITIs and NSTIs make use of opportunities like work from home or take up higher paying non-trade based jobs during the pandemic. For a woman to take up work of her choice; she needs to be self-confident, believe in herself and speak out and negotiate. Therefore this choice to work in a trade based or non trade based sector is a function of women’s agency.

Quest Alliance’s intervention has helped women develop this agency and given them the confidence to take control of their careers and learning journey.

Key insights from the study can be seen here.

About the JPM project:
Quest Alliance, supported by JP Morgan, has worked with 84 ITIs and NSTIs across 19 states impacting around 40,000 disadvantaged young women since January 2018. Women are provided essential life and career development skills. The program also seeks to influence systems change, through capacity building of ITI leadership, placement officers and trainers on gender sensitization, industry engagement and placements.

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