Pakistan is one of those countries that are rich with resources – natural and intellectual. And as is the case with our natural resources, even our intellectual resources remain mostly unexplored or untapped because of the lack of infrastructure. We, as a country, are blessed with intelligent, bright young individuals who have the skills and the passion but lack the direction. They have all the ingredients that make a successful thinker, innovator, leader and entrepreneur, but not the recipe.

However, that is not to say that there are no opportunities. Many graduates are not even familiar with the limited opportunities that they do have. This gap between potential and opportunity creates many lost opportunities for several deserving individuals; they struggle to find the right path because they don’t know where to look. To address this critical disadvantage, PepsiCo has partnered with Amal Academy to close the gap between the talent pool and the job pool.

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The PepsiCo Amal Youth Program is a fellowship program that, during the course of three months, trains individuals in soft skills that are critical for any individual who wishes to enter the job market. Some of the soft skills that are a part of the training program include confidence building, public speaking, and presentation skills. These are some of the skills that help improve a graduate’s skillset, and makes them more marketable.

To mark the momentous occasion, PepsiCo hosted a virtual graduation ceremony on December 23. At the ceremony, PepsiCo and Amal Academy, under the umbrella of PepsiCo Amal Youth Program, announced the Class of 2020, which consisted of 1,600 fellows, 40 percent of whom were young women. Furthermore, the graduates represented more than 135 towns and villages across Pakistan.

Speaking at the ceremony were CEO PepsiCo Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mr. Furqan Ahmed Syed, Mr. Benje Williams Co-Founder Amal Academy, Ali Siddiq the CEO of Amal Academy and the Federal Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Fawad Chaudhry. The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Ms. Jaqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen.

To provide some background, the PepsiCo Amal Youth Program was launched in 2018, as a platform to train students for soft skills imperative in the competitive job market. Two years in, the program successfully expanded itself into the Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions. Another, more significant achievement, is the fact that of 1,600 fellows, 96 percent have secured job offers or have been guaranteed entrepreneurial ventures.

The program has gained credibility by partnering with the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) and 16 different universities. This helps fellows of the program secure better opportunities, and compete with and as some of the best students in the country, regardless of where they hail from or their circumstances.

Speaking at the ceremony, Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Science and Technology – Mr. Fawad Chaudhary acknowledged the efforts of the students and the program, “I want to congratulate the 1600 fellows graduating today. I want to wish them luck and would encourage them to pursue their passions. I also want to commend PepsiCo and Amal Academy on this important collaboration.”

Mr. Furqan Ahmed Syed – CEO PepsiCo Pakistan and Afghanistan elaborated, “The PepsiCo – Amal Youth program lends itself to great opportunities for the youth of Pakistan. Our fellows graduating today are extremely passionate, motivated and keen to prove themselves. I am very excited to see what they will achieve for themselves and for the country.”

Mr. Ali Siddiq, the CEO of Amal Academy, was also extremely optimistic about the collaboration, “with PepsiCo’s support, we hope to further expand the program and benefit more young people going forward.”

One of the highlights of the ceremony was the social impact aspect of the program, which instills the importance of giving back to the community. It is mandatory for each fellow to be part of a two-month project called the ‘Mega Project’ which requires for fellows to come with a workable solution to a challenge faced by their communities. Over the past two years, the fellows have delivered over 600 such projects and impacted more than 21,000 people throughout the country.

We appreciate the great effort being done by PepsiCo and Amal Academy and we wish the very best of luck to all the graduates!