A Story of Intel’s Successful Employee Volunteering Program

For the last four years, the team consistently won the Social Initiative Contest and received funding to start four more projects.

Studies have shown that diversity and inclusion are vital for the economic growth of a society. India has a large number of youth with disabilities who face challenges in gaining employment. Two key ingredients for inclusive growth are empowerment and upskilling of our differently-abled youth. To address this, we,a group of volunteers from Intel, came together to provide focused effort towards educational support, industry exposure and skill-based training to school students and youth….

The journey began in 2013 with a small group pitching a project idea for the Social Initiative Contest-an Intel’s employee volunteering program initiative. The project, targeted educating Children with a disability on simple machines and renewable energy, won the prize and funding. This enabled Intel volunteers to collaborate with an NGO to utilize the funds for the project. Sessions were held by Intel volunteers over a period of one year on alternate Saturdays. Interacting with Children with a disability, required training, and was provided by the partnering NGO. The first program was a stepping stone to expand the target group and involve more Intel volunteers.

The response of the students and positive feedback from the NGO encouraged Intel volunteers to scale up – We then targeted youth with disability undergoing Industrial Training Vocational courses. For the next four years, the team consistently won the Social Initiative Contest and received funding to start four more projects. One of the volunteers was also a finalist of the Intel Hero Award, a prestigious global award at Intel. The program evolved year on year and also looked at employment opportunities. Apart from the funding from Intel Involved, Intel volunteers used their technical and project management experience to ensure the project execution and capital utilization was effective. Each year, around 25 students were trained and the practical experience increased their chances of securing employment. A total of 100+ students have been trained so far. Special care was taken to ensure theory and practical training and materials prepared were aligned to their syllabus.

Figure: Types of projects done each year

However, running the project came with its fair share of challenges. A voluntary project meant a good coordination and project management needed to be ensured. Volunteer availability also to be ensured and factored in. Working with students with a disability requiring special training. Since the students included ones with speech and hearing impairment, sensitization was a must. We received great support from the partnering NGOs.

There were also other challenges like the commuting to remote NGO campuses on a regular basis, difficulty in conducting online training for speech and hearing impaired students, ensuring the volunteers are well prepared before the class, etc. Each of these challenges was analyzed and addressed through consultation with the experts. And the iterative manner of applying the learnings helped shape better solutions in subsequent projects. For example, remote sessions for theory classes were held from Intel conference rooms to the NGO’s.

classrooms using low-cost tools viz. Skype video conferencing. Trials were also done using creative solutions already available such as real-time speech to sign language and text translation, remote conference calls with desktop sharing. This helped to study how to reduce the workload on sign language teachers during remote conference call training.
While running this program over the past five years, we have evolved iteratively and learned that the following is important to make a volunteering program successful:

•Work closely with the partnering NGO.

•Sensitize the team – take help from the NGOs working in the
sector.

•While it’s important to encourage as many volunteers as
possible, but, important to have a focused core group.

• “Focus on each individual even though the group has the
same/similar disability.”

• Monitor the progress of the project, gather feedback and evaluate to achieve the end goal and make improvements interactively.

•To sustain a project, active support for and from the NGO is a must. Work done by the volunteers after the project is completed to be evaluated. Prioritizing sustainability is key.

• Explore how newer technologies can be developed to assist the students.

•Last but not the least, ensure continued support of the Intel Involved volunteers by the management and promote wider participation through recognition and role rotation in various projects.

A big part of our Success was our Organizational support. Thank You, Intel for standing with us and encouraging us to make a difference

 

About the Author: The article was contributed by Intel Volunteers.