Dada, Ink and Mint from Minburi Technical College (Team ‘Jelbear Shampoo’) all work 6 days a week in addition to their studies. Their incomes are spent on supporting family and paying tuition. When asked if they were ever tired – responses such as, “I’m used to it” and “it is my responsibility” were heavily repeated.
Similarly, Lukkade from Kanchanaphisek Technical College (Team ‘U-Patcha Brand’) decided to work at a beer garden because of the high pay. The additional income is to alleviate the burden for her single-father, whom is further responsible for 2 younger siblings. Every day after school, she pulls up her stockings, puts on a smile, and finally greets her guests. Yet few could ever fathom that behind the smile, and under thick stockings, exist scars. Both physical and mental, as she continues to suffer from lymph dysfunction.
These 4 students are examples of underprivileged youth, facing socio-economic disadvantages. The COVID-19 pandemic also further aggravated their situations as youth employment amongst recent graduates, and underprivileged youth – including vocational students, has become more competitive.
The Citi Foundation and the Kenan Foundation Asia recognize the magnitude of such issues, and urgently rolled out programming to enhance the vocational workforce – allowing youth to garner knowledge, utilize their skills and become entrepreneurs. Hence, the Citi Foundation ‘Micro and SME Academy for Digital Youth’ program was launched to equip vocational students with the necessary skills to become digital entrepreneurs and further utilize shared knowledge for career planning.
Encouraged by their teachers and Kenan’s experts, these 4 students were amongst the 500+ youth who joined the program. Through attending multiple workshops to increase digital marketing knowledge – including Facebook, Google, Line and Shopee, business skills, and pitching techniques – these students were thus able to generate compelling business plans, effectively present them to the judges, and secure funding as the 1st and 2nd runner-ups of the pitching competition.
After the award ceremony, the 1st runner up, Team Jelbear Shampoo stated that they “would use the initial fund to develop the prototype of the shampoo” and that “this could also help in distributing incomes to our community as well”. Meanwhile, the 2nd runner up, Team U-Patcha Brand, added that “the initial fund would be used for medical consultation as I need it initially for lotion development, before turning it into business”
3 weeks later, Lukkade from U-Patcha Brand had consulted medical experts, created a product prototype, and tested the product herself – which led to the dramatic improvement of her skin condition. Today, she no longer has to rely on her stockings, and can smile confidently.
On the other hand, Team Jelbear Shampoo faced a setback during the product development process. However, that didn’t hinder their entrepreneurial spirit as they have now shifted their efforts towards developing a new alternative – organic soap. This strong business mindset also triggered them to apply the newly acquired digital skills elsewhere. Mint started her own virtual clothing business utilizing the live selling on Facebook, while Ink deployed Facebook chat-bot to help with the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) of her family business.
Not only did these students gain “a lot of benefit from joining the workshops, through an interactive and fun learning environment, they obtained great knowledge – on better ways to start their own businesses.” It also provided an opportunity to reconnect with their families. Lukkade now works closely with her father to build the U-Patcha Brand. Meanwhile, Dada is spending more time with her grandmother as they co-host live sessions on Facebook.
These are just 4 out of the 500+ vocational students that experienced an uplift in both their professional and social life through the ‘Micro and SME Academy for Digital Youth’ program. The impact of this program had exceeded expectations, demonstrated through the growth of these youth participants and their communities.