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With Funds from Barclays, UNICEF Cultivates Young Entrepreneurs

By: A. Sami Malik

Okara, Punjab – November 2015: Poverty, coupled with limited access to both quality education and employment opportunities, is often a major factor hindering young men and women from fulfilling their potential in life. By imparting demand-driven skills and providing appropriate guidance on available employment or entrepreneurship opportunities, hundreds of thousands of young people can be given the opportunity to brighten their futures. This is precisely the objective of ‘Building Young Futures’, a project being implemented by UNICEF in Pakistan, with funds from Barclays UK.

“I have my own motorcycle repair shop and am earning enough for my family to have a decent life,” says Mohammad Tanvir (19) who successfully completed a 14-month training course on motorcycle repairs at the Vocational Training Institute (VTI) Okara in 2013. I came to know that the VTI Okara was offering a course for young people wishing to become motorbike mechanics. I thought why not do it the proper way and be a certified motorbike mechanic from a reputable organisation. I joined the course and am enjoying the benefits now,” says Tanvir.“Circumstances forced me to give up education after middle school. I started working in a motorcycle repair shop just to learn some skills. I did not get paid for my work since I was a novice and the owner of the shop was teaching me. During that time, I came to know that the VTI Okara was offering a course for young people wishing to become motorbike mechanics. I thought why not do it the proper way and be a certified motorbike mechanic from a reputable organisation. I joined the course and am enjoying the benefits now.”

© UNICEF/Pakistan/2015/SarahNaqvi

Mohammad Tanvir (19) successfully completed a 14-month course on motorbike mechanics from the Vocational Training Institute Okara and is now an entrepreneur with his own motorbike repair shop.

After completing his course at the VTI Okara, Tanvir had so much confidence in his ability as a mechanic that he decided to start his own business rather than work for someone else for wages. On the basis of the certificate he had received from the Institute and pledging the land of his modest family home in a low income locality, Tanvir submitted a request to a bank for a loan of PKR 80,000 (approximately USD 760). The loan was approved in due course.

With the capital in hand, Tanvir rented a shop in one of the bazars in Okara for PKR 2,500 (USD 24) per month and bought all the tools he needed. His self-belief and hard work paid dividends and in a little over 18 months, Tanvir managed to establish his shop as a reliable and professional repair point for all types of motorbikes. 

© UNICEF/Pakistan/2015/SarahNaqvi

Tanvir works at his motorbike repair shop which he set up with a bank loan of PKR 80,000 after graduating from the VTI Okara. 18 months later, he now earns between PKR 20,000 to 25,000 per month. 

“I earn between 20,000 to 25,000 rupees (USD 190 to 240) per month from my shop,” says Tanvir. “Sometimes I buy a motorcycle that needs major repairs and sell it at a good price after overhauling it. This helps me make additional money which I invest in purchasing another bike or covering an unexpected family expense.”    

In 2012, UNICEF initiated a project called ‘Building Young Futures’ in selected districts of Punjab province. Funded by Barclays Bank UK, the goal of the project is to improve income-generating opportunities for socially excluded and vulnerable adolescents by enabling them to access demand-driven life, financial literacy and enterprise skills, through certified training courses. To support the implementation of the project, UNICEF collaborated with the Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) and the Department of Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism (YASAT).

The Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) is an autonomous organisation functioning under the provincial Government of the Punjab. Through its 223 VTIs set up across the province, the council imparts vocational training to young men and women in 51 trades which cater for the growing demands of the industrial and agricultural sectors. So far, of 10,170 trainees enrolled in various courses, 9,813 adolescents (5,063 girls and 4,750 boys) have completed all aspects of their training, including work placements. Amongst those who have graduated, 2,020 have become entrepreneurs and 2,060 have found employment. 

© UNICEF/Pakistan/2015/SarahNaqvi

Zahid Iqbal teaches his students some finer points about repairing a motorbike at the VTI Okara.

At the VTI Okara, Tanvir was trained by Zahid Iqbal, who is the instructor on the motorbike mechanic course. For many years, Zahid worked at the Atlas Honda Motorcycle factory in Lahore, but with a passion for teaching, he switched jobs and joined VTI Okara.

“I always wanted to teach and transfer my knowledge about motorbikes to the younger generation,” says Zahid. “It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to help young people progress in life. Some of them become entrepreneurs, some move abroad. But whenever they return, they come to see me and pay a lot of respect. It is a wonderful feeling to see my students do well in life.”
Around 850 students are enrolled in the VTI Okara at one time, receiving vocational training in two shifts. Nearly 40 per cent of these are girls who usually take up embroidery, cutting and stitching, dress-making and beautician courses.

Talking about the benefits of vocational training, Rana Liaqat, Principal of the VTI Okara says, “The verifiable rate of employment of our students is around 80 per cent. There are no serious issues that students face during the training except that some of them are from very poor families and the stipend of PKR 500 (USD 4.7) per month which they receive is just not enough. Some of the students travel from distant villages and commuting is expensive.”

© UNICEF/Pakistan/2015/SarahNaqvi

Tanvir, his mother and sisters sitting in their courtyard sift through wheat. Benefitting from the ‘Building Young Futures’ programme has brought prosperity to his family and thousands more.  

Thousands of girls and boys like Tanvir have benefitted from the UNICEF-supported, Barclays- funded ‘Building Young Futures’ project says Sarah Coleman, Chief, Child Protection Section, UNICEF Pakistan.  “Many more will benefit in the future. Collaboration between the two organisations and the PVTC network of institutes has given young men and women not only a decent livelihood, but also the hope for a brighter future. Acquiring a skill which helps a young person find a decent job or start a business, benefits not just the individual but the entire family. It brings prosperity and encourages other young people to follow suit.”



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