Youth in Senegal and Rwanda are ready for the opportunity to compete in today’s economy but many of them lack the skills they need for success in the workforce. Many young people struggle to find jobs or remain underemployed for extended periods of time.
Senegal Projet de l’amélioration des performances de travail et d’entreprenariat (APTE) and Rwanda USAID Huguka Dukore Akazi Kanoze (HDAK) view “Education Beyond the Human” through the lens of youth workforce development systems.
For APTE-Sénégal and Rwanda HDAK, both projects implemented by Education Development Center, Inc., “Education Beyond the Human” is evidenced in the network of interactions through which both projects build the capacity of local entities to support youth workforce development. These entities range from government to civil society organizations to private sector partners. This dynamic approach equips young people with the necessary skills required to compete in today’s economy and with the transferrable skills necessary to navigate future challenges. Both APTE-Sénégal and HDAK offer programming that equips young people with the necessary soft-skills, technical skills, and entrepreneurial mindset essential to respond to the socio-economic challenges. This proposal highlights the how APTE-Sénégal and HDAK work to develop this approach across all stakeholders in Senegal and Rwanda.
APTE-Sénégal: Encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset through innovative Boot Camps
Senegal, like most countries, is deeply affected by the upheavals of the 21st century: the environmental challenges (climate change, desertification, waste management, etc.), but also by challenges linked to the emergence of technology in our daily lives. Today’s youth are the first to be confronted with all these challenges, thus affecting their well-being, but also and above all their ability to identify and focus on the essential. Furthermore, we have a system that seems to be disrupted and lagging as far as how fast the world changes and how young learners must necessarily learn differently to hope to be competitive and survive in this “new” world.
The APTE-Sénégal project, funded by the MasterCard Foundation, has been addressing these challenges by introducing innovative teaching methods by ensuring that Senegalese youth are equipped with life skills adapted to the labor market, as well as essential entrepreneurial skills. One of the ways in which the project is innovating is through the project’s Leadership and Entrepreneurship Camp. This camp brings together students and teachers, and facilitates an environment in which they are able to gain first hand entrepreneurial experience through guided real life simulations. The camp is an opportunity for teachers and students to identify and respond to the social and economic challenges that they are faced with on a daily basis in their communities. This experienced is designed to promote and strengthen their leadership, while pushing teachers and students to demonstrate initiative and innovation in addressing the needs identified. It is an experience that allows students and teachers alike to live out fully the assumption of accountability and the entrepreneur’s life cycle both collectively and individually. It is a self-educative and progressive method, which aims at making the child the architect of his or her development as an autonomous, supportive, engaged and accountable citizen.
HDAK: A systems approach for sustaining a mindset shift through youth development alliances
The USAID-funded HDAK project layers interventions to build the capacity of the full workforce development system, from ministry/national partners to district government to local implementing partners (our consortium of 21 local and 4 international partners), and to youth. Working throughout the system represents a shift in mindset for all those involved in supporting youth outcomes. This change of mindset involves finding effective ways to transition from direct delivery of skills and services to a purposeful approach to supporting sustainable systems change that will foster an enabling environment for youth and promote positive youth outcomes.
Following are two examples in which HDAK is shifting mindsets at the district level and the youth level:
• Youth: We have shifted the onus of identifying economic opportunities to youth themselves. This shift is happening through the Youth Leaders program, where youth selected from each classroom receive additional training in leadership and are oriented to work-based learning and entrepreneurship. With this support, Youth Leaders then help to seek out opportunities for their peers and for themselves, with our local partners providing coaching. This just-in-time approach creates the space for youth to apply their own learning and reinforces the notion of an entrepreneurial approach to finding and keeping work.
• District: we are moving towards a role of HDAK as enabler and catalyzer, helping to form and sustain Youth Development Alliances (YDAs). Interventions over the last 3 years focused on building the capacity of local partners to conduct annual labor market assessments in order to better project the types of skills demands. These assessments help to connect local organizations to local businesses, strengthening the relationships between YDA members. This approach also encourages local organizations to be entrepreneurial in seeking work placements, since the project incentivizes training youth in skills that align with local demand. Over the next two years, we are building upon this capacity to bring together key stakeholders with the shared vision of supporting youth. YDAs will involve all systems actors, including local authorities such as the Mayor, government entities, private sector, TVETs, implementing organizations, as well as youth. With a common vision, YDAs will be able to join forces and resources to maximize a coordinated impact for youth at district levels. This final step solidifies the gains in cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset within our partners, local leaders, and youth development stakeholders, enabling them to sustain support to youth in the long term and model this behavior for the youth they support.
It is the richness and value that comes with empowering structures at the local level and through encouraging youth to be the drivers of their opportunities that initiates a mindset change. This shift in mindset allows implementors to take a ‘back-seat’ by adopting the role of catalyzer, rather than of driver or service delivery agent. This is what strengthens and anchors the sustainability of HDAK interventions in shared success.