Wednesday, 11 April 2012

In the Land of Lakes...

- by Vikram Singh

The Pratham Arora Center for Education (PACE) in Udaipur is one of our smaller training centers. In the beautiful city of Udaipur, the center runs a hospitality course for students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Being in a city with a bustling tourist and hospitality industry, the center has the advantage of being close to many hotels – most notably the Taj Lake Palace. The Taj Group supports us greatly and, as our knowledge partner, aids us in our endeavour to provide vocational training to underprivileged youth. Students from the center even get a chance to learn from the experienced staff at the Lake Palace.

The PACE center in Udaipur was started only last year in 2011, thus is very young. PACE’s hospitality training center offers 3 month foundation courses in hospitality – either in F & B or in Housekeeping. These courses are provided to young people who do not have an employable skill set, and many of whom have not finished their formal education. After laying the initial groundwork, the students are then placed with hotels where they work and continue to learn. Being a young and small center, it only has the capacity for 25 students at a time. So far it has trained approximately 40 students and helped them find jobs with various hotels - so far in Udaipur, Shirdi and Goa.

The center is manned by four trainers, one each for the various classes - F & B, Housekeeping, English and Computers. The staff members themselves are young and energetic – and what struck me was the dedication towards their work and also their rapport with the students. The center felt more like an extended family. One of the students I spoke to even said, “They are like my older brothers, they look out for me”. The students are open with the staff and seek their help for professional and personal problems and the staff seems to really go the extra mile to help the students, to the best of their abilities.

I also had a chance to meet and interact with some of the students currently enrolled in the center. They come from different places and different backgrounds, some are more fortunate than others. However most of the students, with a few exceptions, come from families where the only option is farming, or work as unskilled labour. Essentially however, there is a common thread - They all want to have an option for their futures and hope for a better life. PACE tries to help them develop skills that can help them towards that end.

Of course there are problems which exist, not all the students can adjust to life away from home, or can cope with the course. Ultimately some students drop out during and even after the course. However, I was speaking with one of the staff members and we were of a common mind and shared the opinion that even if the futures of a small group of students can be changed in such a substantial way, then there is definite value in the work they do at PACE – Udaipur. I can only hope that PACE continues to grow in size and has the chance and capacity to support more young people by providing them with skills and employment.

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