Source: Skills for Prosperity
Students using the Learning Exchange portal in Kenya
Worldwide, 75 million young people are unemployed despite having received formal training. Further, the International Labour Organization recently reported that youth unemployment rates globally are higher than those for adults and that the COVID-19 pandemic has only widened this growing gap.
According to a new report from the UK Aid-funded Skills for Prosperity (S4P) program, one of the reasons why graduates from higher education (HE) and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions may be unemployed is that their skills and knowledge aren’t relevant or match up with what's needed on the job market.
The program, which aims to transform HE and TVET systems in partner countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America so that they better equip young people with the skills needed by the job market, shares insights into three promising approaches that the team is piloting across different countries.
In the report, Supporting Graduate Transitions into the Job Market, S4P technical advisers John Mountford and Advance HE’s Lindy-Ann Blaize Alfred review the approaches based on experiences in Nigeria, Kenya, and Mexico.
“The successful transition from training to employment is at the heart of the Skills for Prosperity program,” explains report co-author John Mountford. “Learner progression to employment is underpinned by quality-driven training that produces the technical and employability skills relevant to employers’ needs.”
1. Work-based learning and private sector engagement in Nigeria
Work-based learning, including through apprenticeships, internships/traineeships and on the job training, can reduce skills gaps as it ensures that HE and TVET learners acquire skills demanded by employers.
In Nigeria, the team has brought together policymakers, HE and TVET providers and private sector employers to design and deliver the National Apprenticeship and Traineeships System (NATS). From February 2022, NATS will pilot apprenticeships for 1,500 learners in the priority sectors of agriculture, ICT and creative industries, both at their workplace and at college. These will equip learners with technical and employability skills, such as communication and teamwork, which will help them transition into the job market.
NATS will also build employers’ capacity to contribute to work-based learning programs and will build a “mentor bank” of industry experts who can be assigned to learners to support them.
2. Innovative careers advice and guidance in Kenya
In Kenya, the team has been piloting an innovative approach that combines online modules and face-to-face careers advice. S4P will deliver online courses from Accenture’s Learning Exchange portal (LX) to 240 final year students aged 21 and 22, in partnership with identified TVET and specialist providers’ careers services. The modules focus on areas such as English as a second language, digital and financial literacy, and career planning and job search strategies. They will help learners become work ready as they prepare to enter the job market.
Kenya’s Ministry of Education weighed in to ensure the courses match the skills the country needs. The pilot is also providing IT and coaching resources to build the capacity of participating TVET and specialist providers.
As this initiative places a strong emphasis on inclusivity, at least half of the learners have disabilities and around 50 percent are women. The pilot harnesses online methods to improve access to education and skills training, particularly for disadvantaged groups, which is even more relevant in a COVID-19 era.
3. Mentoring women in Mexico
In Mexico, 75 percent of female college graduates don’t have a job in the formal economy. It is particularly hard for them to access positions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), which are typically better paid.
To promote equal opportunities, S4P will start delivering a mentoring program with the Autonomous University of Chihuahua (UACH) in March 2022. This initiative aims to encourage women to complete their STEM undergraduate studies and inspire them to pursue a specialisation in these fields.
S4P will also establish a support network which will involve female professionals in STEM and will assign these to final year female engineering students so they can act as their mentors. This will provide them with role models, help them overcome stereotypes on gender roles and ultimately support their transition into the job market. The program also aims to embed practice within UACH so that this initiative can be replicated with a wider student cohort.
“It’s essential that training is delivered through inclusive and innovative models that provide access to employment opportunities for all,” concludes Mountford. “This report provides an important opportunity to share good practices from across S4P in this important sector.”
Transitions into employment for young people can be complex and challenging, and are not always linear, making it all the more important that TVET and HE are fully equipped to prepare students for employment beyond training or school. As economies around the world begin to rebuild and recover from the pandemic, ensuring that youth populations are employed will play a critical role.
The Skills for Prosperity program is funded by UK Aid from the UK Government and is globally managed by a Palladium-led consortium. It is locally delivered by a Leonard Cheshire-led consortium in Kenya, a DAI-led consortium in Mexico and Palladium in Nigeria. For the latest S4P updates and insights, follow them on Medium, Twitter, and LinkedIn.