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A Demand-Driven Training Toolkit for Youth Employment

Christy Olenik — Vice President, Technical Services, Making Cents International
Mamadou Biteye — Former Managing Director, Africa Regional Office, The Rockefeller Foundation
Image credit: Making Cents International

More than 60% of Africa’s population is under 25 years of age, making sub-Saharan Africa the world’s youngest region. By 2030, it will be home to more than one-quarter of the world’s under-25 population.

As this young population – the best-educated and globally connected the continent has ever had – enters the world of work, Africa has a demographic opportunity. However, the region can only leverage this opportunity by unlocking latent talent and preparing its people for the future of work.

“More than 60% of Africa’s population is under 25 years of age.”

Recognizing the challenge of youth unemployment, and particularly in Africa, the Rockefeller Foundation launched its Digital Jobs Africa (DJA) initiative in 2013. DJA’s goal was to influence systemic change, bringing together the demand and supply sides of the labor market to significantly increase employment opportunities for high potential but disadvantaged youth (HPDY).

On the demand side, DJA promoted the adoption of Impact Sourcing by employers, by demonstrating how businesses benefits from hiring well trained marginalized youth. On the supply side, we found that Africa is plagued by a skills gap, where skills are mismatched with employer needs.

Every year for the next 30 years, at least 15 million increasingly well-educated youth are expected to join the African workforce. Yet, employers across the region identify skills gaps as a major constraint to their ability to compete in the global economy, making them irrelevant in the employment space.

“Every year for the next 30 years, at least 15 million increasingly well-educated youth are expected to join the African workforce.”

This is in reference to both technical skills, as well as soft skills that prepare youth to effectively transition to the world of work, from the classroom space, such as interpersonal attributes – service skills, communication skills, time adherence, self-confidence, motivation, and negotiation skills. On the harder skills, digital and numeracy skills also fall short.

Failure to address these would mean the youth themselves, as well as their countries’ economies, miss out on opportunities that are emerging from new sectors.

For us as a Foundation, Demand Driven Training (DDT) is our answer to this challenge.

DDT refers to those skills development initiatives that are customized to respond directly to the specific requirements of a job role, for an employer or a group of employers, and lead to placement in employment or self-employment. Demand-Driven programs develop and prepare youth for specific job roles.

DDT is applicable across all sectors because it seeks to develop a strong link between formal training and actual industry requirements. It is a methodology, a systemic approach to linking skills to demand.

Under DJA we made substantial investment through grants to organizations working closely with these HPDYs, with an emphasis on those organizations that can place them in business process outsourcing (BPO), online work, and other direct digital employment opportunities. Some of these were Making Cents International, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator etc.

We have worked with these and other partners who have access to large, diverse networks of local employers, as well as corporate networks. They train the youth, and then connect them to jobs in these networks and in growth sectors such as hospitality and ICT.

To date, since the start of the initiative, more than 150, 000 youth have been trained, with more than 45,000 successfully placed in jobs.

However, this is only some success. DDT still needs to be scaled, for greater and more immediate impact – to improve the lives of the youth that get employed, and raise Africa’s profile as an investment destination for willing investors. Africa’s chances will increase on the global scale once there is confidence in the presence of a competent talent pool, with skills relevant to employer’s needs.

In October of this year, the Rockefeller Foundation and Making Cents International launched the Demand-Driven Training (DDT) Toolkit, which brings together lessons learned from the work we have done with grantees and partners under DJA since the beginning, on how to better link youth with jobs, with both them and their employers reaping optimally.

The toolkit will help to bridge the gap between youth skills as acquired through formal education systems, and employer needs. It will benefit governments, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, Universities, youth training organizations focusing on skills development, all those who design, develop, deliver youth education and training programs, as well as donor and development partners who support them.

Making Cents International created the toolkit by collecting information through a literature review, and site visits with five leading South African DDT providers, and five leading global DDT organizations operating in various markets. It also input by development investors such as Accenture, JP Morgan Chase, the MasterCard Foundation, Prudential, and USAID among others. Eight public and private South African technical and vocation education and training organizations also provided important background and context to their own.

The toolkit was deliberately made to be user-friendly, with easy access to tools and resources that organizations can quickly integrate into their own programs, such as screening and measurement tools, handbooks, factsheets, sample course outlines and videos. Its modules cover various critical topics such as Understanding Labor Market Information; Partnering with Employers and Others; Screening, Assessing and Profiling; Developing Soft Skills; Mentoring Youth; Implementing Work-Based Learning; and Monitoring and Evaluating DDT Programs. Best practice tips are also included for implementers to consider as they integrate the content into their own programs, along with examples of how others have done it.

DDT is a proven model that shows significant results in transitioning disadvantaged youth to sustainable livelihoods. We have learned that training interventions that closely engage employers produce positive labor market outcomes for youth, particularly those in low- and middle-income countries.

For this purpose, we are hoping to take the Toolkit to scale so that more youth can achieve the goal of becoming economically stable. Making Cents International is currently scoping for partners who might be interested in adapting the Toolkit content to their own strategies and initiatives, to work together in making the material context specific.

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