In the education and skill development journey, the role of parents and families cannot be understated. Often serving as the pillars of support, they play an integral part in shaping the dreams and aspirations of their children. Recognising this profound influence, Community and Family Engagement has gained momentum in recent years. One remarkable application of this concept is seen in its ability to bridge the gap between parents, learners, and their career aspirations, especially in India’s Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs).

Our study, “Change Map for Industrial Training Institutes in India“, conducted in 2019, highlighted the transformative power of Parent Teacher Meets (PTMs) as an effective aspect of Community Engagement.

Among the 210 principals surveyed, 87% agreed that PTMs foster collaboration between educators and parents. These engagements provide a unique platform for open dialogue, helping parents better understand their children’s career ambitions. This, in turn, leads to a more informed and supportive network as learners embark on their professional journeys.

Intriguingly, our study also underscored the link between parent engagement and the broader societal goal of increasing women’s participation in the workforce. Most respondents believed fostering parent engagement was critical to empowering women learners, enabling them to pursue careers after their ITI education. This insight emphasises that creating an inclusive environment is about educating learners and involving families in the process.

Quest Alliance’s Family Engagement Sessions conducted across women ITIs and NSTIs (National Skill Training Institutes) is a pioneering initiative that has borne remarkable fruit. These in-person or virtual sessions provide a safe space for women learners to discuss their career aspirations openly with their families. The overarching goal is to empower these learners to confidently communicate their dreams to their families, fostering a supportive environment for their future endeavours.

These Family Engagement Sessions’ novelty lies in their role in building agency for women learners. Empowered with information and support, these learners are better equipped to negotiate with their families about their career paths. This agency is a powerful tool for ensuring learners’ aspirations are heard, respected, and nurtured.

Presenting successful alumni as role models have proven to be transformative, reshaping the mindset of women learners about their potential to contribute to the workforce. As one learner, Arpita Banerjee from NSTI Kolkata, expressed, “I spoke to my parents about what I want to do when I pass out, and they gave me some great advice and ideas. I am now sure of my dreams and excited to fulfil them.”

Beyond Family Engagement Sessions, several other practices warrant exploration in the realm of Community and Family Engagement:

  1. Alumni Engagement: Establishing a network of former students as role models and mentors, fostering a sense of belonging and aspiration among current learners.
  2. Family Counseling: Creating a secure learning environment at home by providing families with the tools and resources needed to support their learners effectively.
  3. Partnerships: Partnering with state departments and civil society organisations to tackle issues related to gender discrimination and address matters of physical and emotional abuse, further ensuring a conducive learning environment.

In essence, Community and Family Engagement have emerged as powerful catalysts in nurturing the career aspirations of learners in ITIs and beyond. By fostering open dialogue, informed support, and empowerment, these initiatives bridge the gap between educators, learners, and families, unlocking opportunities and fulfilling dreams. As we move forward, these initiatives have the potential to be instrumental in shaping a more inclusive and supportive educational landscape that empowers all learners to reach their full potential.