The issues of providing quality education to the most under-resourced group of students, particularly those living in low-income and rural parts of India, have been magnified due to the pandemic induced by Covid-19. In these uncertain times, now more than ever, underprivileged students require support to complete their studies.
The pandemic has been a disruptor as well as a force for change. This is particularly significant in the context of education. With schools shutting down due to country-wide lockdowns, the Indian education system shifted to an online/virtual space.
To enable continuity in learning, Bangalore based social enterprise Unherd India partnered with American cloud-based software company Salesforce to launch STEMforce: a flagship initiative that revolves around teaching underprivileged students about SEL (Social-Emotional Learning), Financial Literacy and drive a business idea focused on solving one United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG).
This 3 week long virtual Mentorship helped students make informed career choices as they met with industry professionals from Salesforce. This year, 20 low-income high-schoolers were mentored by experts and learned about SEL and Financial Literacy. The students charmed the jury members on the pitch day with their out-of-the-box business ideas.
The entrepreneurial ideas ranged from value education through sports, awareness workshops on diversity and inclusion and LED Billboards to ALLYSPACE, a gender-neutral talent acquisition company and Mental Health counselling. The students really motivated us all and came up with a solution-based approach to tackle global issues.
“I learnt how to manage my finances and was able to look into many useful concepts that I hadn’t touched upon before. The one key takeaway from STEMforce is that we should be responsible for our own lives and not wait for someone else to lead us. We should be able to adapt to any situation and always find effective solutions,” says Joycee, a junior college student that attended the industry career program.
Another student, Tasmiya, had a new learning experience and wishes to join more such Mentorships, “I learnt to interact and share my perspective or my opinion which was valued. I learnt to be creative, love myself, be confident, speak up and also manage time. I learnt to be responsible, adapt and collaborate to do the required work. STEMforce gave me a new learning experience and it’s also so much fun. We met and interacted with so many new people and got inspired by them.”
While STEMforce is an opportunity for students like Joyce and Tasmiya to learn about critical concepts and become career-ready. At the same time, it is also an opportunity for industry professionals to give back to society and help budding high-school students make informed career decisions.
One mentor, Anisha, had the following experience while mentoring for STEMforce: “Being able to share some of my work and life experiences with a group of young students was a very fulfilling experience and it was very good. It was a lot of learning for me as well, both in terms of content as well as delivering the content to an audience very different from what I am used to.”
Kiran Mayi from Salesforce is extremely happy and hopeful of our student’s future: ”Over the last 4+ years with Unherd, Salesforce hosted more than eight mentorship opportunities for students including the flagship programs-STEMForce and GirlsInCode.
“To date, 150+ Salesforce employees have invested over 2300 hours to coach over 120 students to help them test multiple STEM career options. Unherd continues to inspire me with their amazing foolproof plans, which are slowly shaping the career aspirations of many students.”
With organisations coming up with hands-on industry learning programs like STEMforce, we can hope that this was the stepping stone for these high-school students and that learning essential concepts of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Financial Literacy and working on an entrepreneurial idea has increased their interests in STEM careers and empowered them to make informed career decisions.
Here’s to a brighter future.