SRI LANKA:

Unilever Seeks Creative’s ASAP Training of Trainers Methodology

September 15, 2008

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Unilever, a leading supplier of the world’s best known consumer brands, sought out the Creative Associates International-implemented Accelerated Skills Acquisition Program (ASAP) program to provide employment training as part of its corporate social responsibility efforts.

With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), ASAP works with the private sector and government and NGO training centers to develop workforce readiness for Sri Lankan youths ages 15 to 25.

The ASAP team also provides workforce skills training in order to improve employment opportunities for these young people. Course work focuses on job search strategies and building employability through Career Success Skills, English and computer literacy, and how to seek multiple job opportunities.

“We receive five to six CVs a day and most of them are not worth following up on…they lack focus and don’t reflect what we are looking for,” said Unilever’s Administrative Manager David Muller. “ASAP fills this gap in young people’s skills; the ability to focus themselves and market themselves to us. We at Unilever are committed to bring about this change, too.”

Following its introduction to ASAP staff at a meeting organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Unilever enlisted ASAP’s help in training the children of the beneficiaries of its Saubaghya project. Unilever places strong emphasis on its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives by opening economic opportunities for those who would otherwise have none.

Unilever’s Saubaghya project is designed to empower Sri Lankan women through an innovative partnership that trains rural women to become entrepreneurs and increase their living standards. In the end, by increasing their business acumen, Unilever gains a pool of new saleswomen for its products in rural areas.

Though the majority of Saubaghya beneficiaries are older than ASAP’s target age group, Unilever decided to focus on their children for training. “We must do some service to the people we work with. What better way to do so than to help their kids?” asked Unilever Corporate Relations Manager, Charmika Hettiarachchi.

After adapting the training to Unilever’s needs, the ASAP training was conducted for 18 Unilever headquarters and field-based upper and middle management staff drawn from the company’s western, central and north central provinces offices. These newly qualified trainers will, in turn, train 800 youths of the Saubaghya beneficiaries. The course provided an introduction to ASAP’s objectives, its target groups and methodology, an introduction to the uniqueness of the curriculum (integration of subject matter and soft skills focus), general facilitation skills (including listening, hygiene and dress), a deeper understanding of lesson structures and expected teaching methods. Lastly, a practicum session allows each participant to teach a part of a selected lesson.

Commenting on the high standards and dedication of the Unilever team, ASAP trainer Gamini Hettiarachchi, said all trainees worked hard and their efforts were demonstrated through the practice sessions. Other team members agreed.

“This [ASAP curriculum] is a program that gives the focus that young people today lack. The training of trainers itself is an exceptional model that can be used for other types of training we conduct for people who work with us,” said Dushantha Bogahalande, a Unilever Territory Manager in Kekirawa in the North Central Province. “It [the ASAP training] can be used to enhance skills of persons outside this age category as well.”

Unilever has been so impressed with the ASAP training that it is considering plans to provide in-house trainings with its newly qualified trainers in order to benefit the company’s own employees. Further, Unilever has indicated that it may also provide the training to the surrounding low-income community near its Colombo facility.

“A program’s success rests on conducting it ourselves. Getting outside trainers to conduct training for groups we work with, is not as half as successful as carrying it out ourselves,” said Indunil Weerasinghe, Territory Manager of 15-years serving Weliweriya in the Colombo suburbs. “We are known to the community and we can have a stronger impact.”

— ASAP Local Program Specialist Samudrika Gayani Sylva in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Alexandra Pratt in Washington, D.C.

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