Youth Harness Initiative Project

Overview

Hundreds of thousands of students graduate each year from the over 600 universities in Africa. This notwithstanding, there is a conundrum – with many employers lamenting glaring skills gaps on one hand, and persistent youth unemployment on the other. The mismatch between skills training and job-requirements in-part explains why about 10 million African graduates have still not found jobs.

One of the solutions that has proven to be successful is to provide students and young graduates with opportunities to acquire new skills and gain hands-on experience while they are in school. This could be in the form of innovative training programs that focus not only on technical substance but also on soft, ethical and life skills that are responsive to job-requirements.
 

Good Practice Approach

The Africa Internship Academy (AIA) is a social enterprise that offers internship services to individuals - including students and young graduates as well as stakeholders such as government, youth agencies, corporate organisations, and multilateral partners. The internship program is a proprietary Work Integrated Learning Program (WILP) model that allows students and graduates to learn new skills while acquiring hands-on experience. This is achieved through structured experiential learning that is organised around working on specific projects or developing and implementing business ideas.

Specific Activities

The internship is undertaken throughout the year with the biggest being the summer internship taking place between July and August. Recruited students spend one month at AIA. After one month at the academy, the interns are connected to host companies for one month. They work on various projects that give them the opportunity to apply skills and knowledge acquired at the academy while learning and adapting to the host work ethics. A report is sent to the academy and the intern’s work is evaluated. In some instances, the intern may be retained at the company upon the company’s request and needs.

Job shadowing is an activity that provides opportunities to high school students from selected schools in Accra to participate in “shadowing” (spending time with someone who is doing a particular job to learn how to do it) a diverse range of professionals directly in the workplace. The goal is to expose students to the world of work and help them gain practical knowledge that they can use in their studies at school, lives, and future careers. It enables them to begin to envision their lives as professionals, hence enabling them to make informed decisions about their career paths.

Key Results
  • More than 80% percent of the beneficiaries report to have acquired new skills that make them stand out and have a competitive edge over their counterparts;

  • More than 50% of the graduates are placed in host companies; and students who participated in the Job shadow were 25% more prepared to make informed decisions.

Lessons Learnt (Success Factors & Challenges)

From the internship program, a few lessons can be drawn:

  • Presenting the internship as an employment accelerator to students and young graduates motivates active participation;

  • Orienting students through structured internship has proven helpful in grooming them for work, including acquiring the right mind-set;

  • Matching students’ career aspirations with organisations’ vision, missions and mandates can be undertaken in any context, thereby guaranteeing relevant and targeted internships for the students; and

  • Challenges in getting finances to self-sustain the program led AIA to sell their services to students through organisations that sponsor their internship.

The lessons learnt from the job shadowing program are as follows:

  • Making considerations for job shadow in the schools’ academic calendar would permit greater participation of students in the programme;

  • Having more than one student shadow a host at the workplace can be cumbersome for the host company;

  • Most organisations are not able to provide logistical and financial support to the students; Government’s support in this regard would be helpful;

  • Host companies that participated expressed the desire to be part of subsequent sessions;, their engagement in the shadow programme not only helped the students gain clarity on their career paths, but also gave the host companies an opportunity to critically review the scope and delivery mechanisms of their work.

Which elements/tools are most suitable for replication/scalability

Based on the lessons learnt, some of the potential replication and scalability elements of the internship and job shadowing programs are as follows:

Internship

The approach that AIA takes of selling their services to students through organisations that sponsor their internship, in order financially self-sustain the internship program, is one that can also be replicated and scalability.

Additionally, having structured and systematic orientation sessions with host companies, accompanied with standard quality assurance tools and processes would promise better results.

Matching students’ career aspirations with organisations’ vision, missions and mandates can be undertaken in any context, thereby guaranteeing relevant and targeted internships for the students;

Job shadowing

Involvement and buy-in of key stakeholders such as the private sector, youth-led agencies and government is of paramount importance for the replication and scalability of the job shadowing programs. However, it will be vital to address the challenges mentioned previously with regards to the provision of logistical and financial support to enable students effectively participate on the programme. Governments may need to support the students with basic stipends to enable them participate effectively in the program.

Making considerations for job shadow in the schools’ academic calendar would permit greater participation of students in the programme.