The Vocational Training for Carpentry (VTC) Program was launched in 2012 in Aranganur Village, located 23 km south of Puducherry and surrounded by 14 villages (both in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry jurisdictions), all characterized by high poverty and deprivation. The majority of the inhabitants of the area depend on agricultural and seasonal labour work as main income source, which is insufficient. Dwellings are rudimentary, electricity supply is poor, and there is little infrastructural or financial support for children’s education. As a consequence, many of the village children and youngsters are forced to drop out of school to financially support their families. A combination of everyday stresses and the absence of counselling or other emotional support means that many risk getting into bad company and habits, consuming alcohol and/or drugs.
The VTC Program aims to give school drop-out boys a second chance at a long-term career via professional skill-development. After a requirement analysis and specific market needs in the area, carpentry was identified as a respectable growing industry with a steady, remuneration.
Candidates are selected by a Sharana social worker after detailed research to select the most deserving. The 12-month training is conducted by Sharana Master Carpenter Mani. A complete syllabus has been designed for this course, in accordance with national training guidelines. Only 10 students are selected per batch. This number is specifically low to ensure quality with the master’s full attention.
During the course, each trainee is provided with:
• A Rs. 2000 per month stipend
• A loaned bicycle (for transport to/from workshop)
• Two sets of uniforms
• Two meals, two teas a day
• A placement post completion
• A complete set of tools to use in their future professional lives
In addition to all of the above, the trainees are provided with the guidance and care of a dedicated Sharana social worker. After the initial assessment, the social worker works alongside the families to ensure that the long-term benefits of the training are known to them as well as to help with any family apprehensions or issues that might arise as a result of the training e.g. sudden drop in unskilled daily labour income by the candidate.
During visits they get in touch with various working places in different Pondicherry areas and, thus, they have the chance to understand and experience many types of techniques and processes of furniture making as well as different areas of expertise.
Only after the visits, the students can select the unit that best suit their needs and competences and so begin their first, independent carpentry working experience
At the end of the program, all trainees pass an examination, after which receive a 4-week hands-on work period at one of several selected woodwork units and industry programs in Pondicherry. Once this phase is also successfully completed, trainees are formally provided with a certificate of completion, recognized by the state, and commence a one-month paid internship in one of the carpentry workshops in and around Pondicherry.
All the boys who have enrolled have passed successfully the course and are placed in various units. A few have started their own and all of them have a respectable income from carpentry taught at the VTC