It all started in 2004, when the founder of Café Coffee Day, VG Siddhartha, started a vocational training institute and a higher secondary school at Chikmangalur, a hill station in Karnataka. The name of the institute itself, ‘Yuva’, justifies the aim of the Company— to nurture the young rural talent of the country. Though it was initiated as part of the CSR activity of the organisation, the institute later began offering a one-year certificate course in hotel management to students who come from very poor economic backgrounds. These very students were hired to work at Café Coffee Day (CCD)outlets in different parts of the country. Niveditha H, the principal of Yuva collaborated with CCD to initiate the vocational training programmes for the company.
The institute provides free education and training to youngsters, with all their expenses being covered by the chairman’s trust. “Our chairman and founder, V G Siddhartha, was keen to create employment for the rural youth, so that they could lead a productive life and contribute to society . A large number of youth were unemployable due to skill gaps, so it was decided to offer hotel management courses at Yuva, our vocational training institute,” shares Shyamala Deshpande, former president-HR, Café Coffee Day and now a part of the corporate HR team. She spearheaded the vocational training programmes for the Company when she was actively working for it.
The institute provides a one-year course in hotel management, which includes six months of theory and six months of internship, where students get an on-the-job experience. Apart from hotel management, the institute also provides courses in audit, micro-finance, supply chain and culinary skills, which depends on the needs and demands of the organisation. “Communication skills are critical to success in customer-service roles and there is a strong commitment to building job-ready skills . The focus has been on right skilling and reskilling to keep pace with the dynamic market needs. We aim to groom students who can think, ideate, solve problems, communicate and collaborate. We also provide specialisation studies to the students in the last quarter of the course, so as to place them in various roles at CCD in accordance with their skills. Placements are done within the organisation, and so it is a closed ecosystem,” says Deshpande.
The students and youngsters who attend these courses come from very humble backgrounds. “Their parents are generally local labourers, drivers, farmers, coolies or domestic helpers,” shares Deshpande.
“The focus has been on right skilling and reskilling to keep pace with the dynamic market needs. We aim to groom students who can think, ideate, solve problems, communicate and collaborate”
By providing quality education and employment to these students, the organisation is changing their lives and offering them a great career path. “We have stories of people working with us who have really grown in life. Some are managers handling multiple cafes in a geographical area and a few of them are also faculty members at the institute,” mentions Deshpande.
These students also get a chance to move to urban cities and change their lives for the better. Coming from a poor and rural background, these students get an opportunity to live a life in urban cities. “We provide them with proper counselling in life-skill programmes before placing them in different cities, because some of them are nervous as everything is new for them,” says Deshpande. Some of them do not even know how to use an ATM card and possess no money management skills. Most of them are part of the first generation in their families which is getting into formal employment.
Many young men and women who have studied at Yuva are now managers and area managers in the Company. One such example is of Somesh, whose parents worked at a tea estate in Madikere. He had to leave his studies after class 12. But thanks to the training and facilities at Yuva, after graduating from here Somesh is now an area manager at CCD. Another example is that of Santhala who also comes from a very poor background. She had never imagined that one day she would be a graduate. She has worked as a café manager, coffee trainer and is now the centre head at the DDUGKY training facility. She is proud of her transition from a small-town girl to a big-city professional.
Siddegowda L, who comes from a very small village, about 28 km from Chikmangalur, also has a very humble background. When he was studying in class 12,both of his parents were suffering health issues because of which all the responsibility of the family came onto his shoulders. With both the parents bed ridden and a small brother to take care of, Siddegowda somehow completed class 12 and took admission in Yuva. During his six-month training in Mumbai when he struggled financially, some of his teachers from the institute supported him. After working at a CCD branch in Mumbai, he is now a faculty member with the Institute.
At the time of hiring, the organisation does not have a stringent hiring system. The number one criterion is the economic background. The organisation wants to provide jobs to people who come from very weak financial backgrounds wherein families cannot afford their higher education. The second criterion is English writing, reading and speaking skills, and the third is a passing score in the final report card coupled with an attitude fit for the hospitality industry.
Every year, around 350 students pass out from the institute and are employed by the organisation. Almost all of them are hired by Café Coffee Day. This kind of programme also creates loyalty in the minds of the employees and they are likely to stick around for a longer period of time.
Providing a good career path, professionalism and quality skill training, the institute— which had taken birth as a simple CSR activity—is changing the lives of its students and their families. This is the best way to not only educate the underprivileged but also provide jobs to those who actually need them.