Making a difference: This Intel engineer helps youths with disabilities prepare for employment

How can I make a difference?  This question defines Ankit Navik’s contributions to both work and society. Inspired by his father and mentor’s continuous work helping others, Ankit has a well-rooted desire to give back to society.

Ankit joined Intel as an intern in 2014, and his desire and motivation to help others was quickly put to use. After recognizing the challenges youth with disabilities face due to insufficient education and lack of opportunities, Intel decided to bridge the gap and enable them with equal opportunities. Ankit and other Intel employees formed a volunteer group, teaming up with The Association of People with Disabilities (APD) in 2013. Ankit says the first goal the initiative worked towards was “training and providing practical experience on simple machines.” Since 2015, Ankit has been using his prior experience as a lecturer paired with his strong desire to help others, to contribute to this initiative.

Interacting with students provided a significant challenge for the volunteers, as using an interpreter limited the information flow. They overcame this challenge through innovation—and creative problem-solving. The team used Lego blocks to gamify the learning process. The communication barrier also motivated Ankit and several volunteers to learn sign language to communicate with the students directly. This improved communication with the students and enabled them to express their desires to learn about specific topics of interest.

With several courses extended to the students, one prominent question they posed was “how can you help us earn a living?” The team responded by designing a vocational course to empower the youth to secure jobs after completing the course.

Ankit says, “Our collective goal to ensure employment for these students led us to train more than 180 students on different technical aspects like installation, repair, and servicing, and a few were successful in securing jobs. The fact that we could help them in a small way gives us immense satisfaction. Their dedication to learning has inspired us to do more, despite the barriers and challenges.”

Through this course, the intricacies of mobile and PC repair and assembly were introduced to students. This improved their technical understanding enabling them to work with different components and devices. Intel, recognizing the importance of this course, provided the initiative with funding necessary to purchase service kits and products like the Raspberry Pi to aid in teaching.

“Their inspiring stories and determination to learn motivates us to contribute more towards their education,” Ankit says. “Intel’s vision to improve lives through this program has been a rewarding journey for everyone involved.”

The program also includes courses to train students on microcontroller basics and IoT products to help them get future employment not only at service centers, but also at technology companies. Learning the technical skills relevant to market requirements prepares students for a better future in tech sectors.

Now leading the initiative at Intel, Ankit and his team have spent countless hours educating students, reaffirming their confidence through multiple activities, and empowering them as individual contributors. The team’s interactions empower students to find jobs, present their work at conferences, and work on IoT projects.

Ankit strongly believes that Intel’s open culture plays a crucial role in fostering communication and idea sharing. This supportive environment enabled him to reach out and create a purpose for youth with disabilities.

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