The Skills Gap Up Close and Personal: Chiamaka’s Story

Secondary school graduate Chiamaka worked happily in sales at a supermarket in Owerri, Nigeria until they adopted a cashless policy and she was forced to quit due to her lack of experience with electronics. Fast forward six months, and Chiamaka has now acquired all the skills necessary to tackle any technological endeavor. The tables have turned so much that she now works at a technologically-focused company as a secretary, beloved by her boss. What changed?

Chiamaka in the middle of her classmates at graduation.

Chiamaka in the middle of her classmates at graduation.

This 22-year-old worker with no idea how to use digital stock inventory systems or conduct point of sale transactions on the computer isn’t that much different than others her age. According to a 2014 study by PWC, 96 percent of CEOs in Africa (compared to a global average of 63 percent) are concerned about the lack of skills.  

“In Nigeria, too many graduates lack non-academic skills.” Dozie Okpalaobieri, Director, Quincy Advisory Limited

At least two-thirds of unemployed youth in Africa are between 15 and 24 years old. Chiamaka did not receive ICT (information and communications technology) skills training in high school. Even if she had, technology has continued to advance drastically. Once she left the job at the market, she decided to enroll in YTF’s six-month program.

Once she left the job at the market, Chiamaka decided to enroll in YTF’s six-month program.

A Rejuvenated Future with a New Job

Our teachers noted how Chiamaka’s motivation and fast learning led her to high confidence once she joined the program. We provided her with internet access, a computer, a digital camera and other learning materials like practical booklets.

Chiamaka then had the chance to practice her skills as a YTF Academy graduate intern for two months.

Chiamaka second from the right focused on working her new-found skills on the computer.

Chiamaka second from the right focused on working her new-found skills on the computer.

After completing the program, a company called “FOR HIM COMPUTER” hired her as a secretary. This position builds on what she learned in YTF’s program and helps her further develop her skills in a professional setting. Plus, Chiamaka receives a round-trip transportation stipend each time she comes to work.

Chiamaka clearly has a desire to keep learning, with plans to attend a university next school year.

A Higher Education Motivation, Boosted by YTF

Chiamaka keeps dreaming of what she can achieve with her newfound skills, now hoping to be a world-class nurse in the future. We are so proud to see a student like Chiamaka go through a complete turnaround – from technology novice to a girl who can leverage technology to reach new dreams. 

We know hope remains for many other students just like Chiamaka, who is one of more than 100 YTF Academy students who go above and beyond in their studies. It’s not a surprising path, considering 96 percent of YTF program graduates go on to higher education within two years of graduating.

We at YTF see stories like this every day, and we can’t help but share our favorites. Stay tuned for the next student’s transformation journey.

A Supportive Community Equals a Thriving Business

What comes around goes around and a network of entrepreneurs keep the circle of support in the communities of Umudiator Village in Imo State. Mother and wife Mrs. Oluchi has the passion and creativity innate to support her trade. Since training with us, Mrs. Oluchi has also had a reliable network and the technological wisdom to continue a thriving business. Now Mrs. Oluchi gives back to the community and provides a tour of her workplace to YTF participants learning about entrepreneurship.  Continue reading

What I Learned about Women Empowerment from Working with YTF

Post by Narges Khoramshahi, Next Generation Leaders program

Since the day I walked through the doors of YTF’s Louisville headquarters in October 2016, I’ve been floored by how YTF works. Prior to joining the team, I had no idea how far-reaching and positive the impact of one organization could be.

I have the unique opportunity to embed with YTF for a year through the Next Generation Leaders program, digging deep to develop leadership skills that I can take back to my country. So far, I have been included in several talks with YTF country managers and have been incredibly inspired by how YTF leverages technology, often in places that an outsider might consider technology to be a luxury.

This exposure to emerging technologies has prompted me to integrate aspects of technology into my action plan for work back home, opening doors to become more effective.

Roots at Home and Branches Across the Ocean

I have learned that being an influential leader requires a clear understanding of the communities and people you want to work with and empower. A home base for YTF in Louisville, Kentucky, may seem strange at first, but once you get to know Njideka’s vision, experience and dedication – paired with a keen eye for the right partners and a capable team – it’s clear that no individual across the world is out of reach for YTF’s life-altering impacts.

At the same time, I’m learning that you can’t be indifferent about the community that surrounds you. Defining new projects in order to be a change agent and leader where you live is just as critical as reaching new continents. For instance, I am becoming familiar with various YTF programs such as 3D Printing Academy for Girls. While YTF’s 3D printing work started in countries like Nigeria and Kenya, this 3D printing program was recently brought home to Louisville. I have learned to appreciate the accessibility of the Louisville community and their welcoming attitude. I see a great potential for connection and collaboration.

The concept of community for YTF’s work extends beyond directly serving the people of Louisville. YTF also deeply values and benefits from partnerships and learning from their fellow changemaker organizations. YTF wants to be an active part of the nonprofit community in Louisville and as such is a member of Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNPE), based right here in Louisville. We participated in the CNPE annual conference last fall and saw the potential of the Louisville community – an inspiring reminder of the role YTF can play in this space. We especially loved the supportive atmosphere, agreeing with fellow attendees that an effort to be fair and patient with each other can pay dividends in all our work.

Want to Make a Big Impact? Make the Details Matter.

At YTF, every single appointment, phone call and visit matters. And each interaction and communication requires preparation and focus.

We evaluate ourselves before and after our meetings and calls. We try to determine what success looks like in any session. We prepare, have a plan and follow up to establish accountability to implement tasks and keep driving forward. We make it a goal to learn one thing from every meeting. It’s clear these small, organizational culture things matter and make a difference.

This may seem obvious to some, but it speaks volumes to YTF’s operating principles. How you approach your work and how you honor people’s values makes for stronger relationships and lasting, meaningful changes in the world.

Telling Our Story, Our Way

When I first met Njideka and heard the story of how she started and shaped YTF, I knew instantly I could learn a lot from her journey as a leader. As social entrepreneurs, Njideka and I co-wrote a piece in celebration of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day last fall. Talking about our passion working with Iranian and Nigerian women is certainly close to our hearts. It’s been incredible to discover the enormous similarities between our communities when it comes to women. Even more, I’m finding through YTF the potential and the desire to break through all my limitations and to stand tall on their behalf.

I’ve been reminded time and again that empowering one woman is like empowering all women. I cherish the work that YTF does to provide opportunities for girls and women and I am honored to be part of it.

“SCRATCH”-ing the Code World

Brenda Wangwe-Kilonzo writes for YTF Kenya and is based in Nairobi. She wrote this based on her experience at Africa Code Week at Nairobi’s Winka Academy.

The energy is infectious. I am not very sure there are many better ways of unwinding than sitting in the midst of excited 10 year olds. It’s all hands raised, fingers snapping and near-desperate calls on the tutor – everyone seems to have that special answer he is looking for.

 “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

G.K. Chesterton

I’m at Youth for Technology Foundation’s (YTF) Africa Code Week at Nairobi’s Winka Academy; teaching ages 9-11 to code using a software package called Scratch.

“This is an entry point to the more advanced coding,” said Wanyumu Ibuka, YTF’s program coordinator. “It comes with pre-set icons which can help children program their own interactive stories, animations, and games.”

Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively – essential skills for life in the 21st century.

“With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability,” said Fred Swaniker, founder and CEO of African Leadership Academy. A view that YTF concurs with.

Daniel code ytf scratch

This is even an issue U.S. President Obama has weighed on. In 2015 at the African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia, Obama explained: “Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.  Africa’s middle class is projected to grow to more than one billion consumers. With hundreds of millions of mobile phones and surging access to the Internet, Africans are beginning to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity,” US President Barack Obama has said.

So YTF is reaching out to empower Kenya’s youth population to help narrow social and economic disparities through one simple concept: access to information. The information we expose youth to creates economic opportunities and the ability to compete globally.

Back to the refreshing moments at Winka Academy’s Africa Code Week. Like many successful teachers, we want to hear out our students. “Who goes first?” I ask. Daniel shoots up his hand.

Daniel YTF youth code scratch

Daniel is keen on being part of Kenya’s technological future tapestry. The 10 year old second-last born of five siblings says when he is not outside playing soccer with his friends or doing his chores at home, he is usually on the on the computer. “I use my older sister’s computer to play action games, and to talk with my friends over Skype and Whatsapp – just finding out how they are or checking whether they have finished their homework.”

He loves machines and would like to be an engineer when he grows up. Daniel says he has enjoyed the Scratch week and hopes the coding he has just started with YTF would enable him achieve his passion – using the computer to make educative games for children. “I want them not to get HIV and to know have to make good use of the soil,” he asserts.

Eighteenth century writer Alfred Mercier said: “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”YTF takes this to heart, aiming for plenty of fun at Africa Code Weeks to help launch the next Mark Zuckerberg or Michael Dell – right here in Kenya.

 

Two Girls, Two Countries, One Thread: Hope for the Future

Precious_2

Nzambi is 13 and lives in Kenya. Precious, 17, lives in Nigeria. Both girls count YTF’s flagship program – YTF Academy – as their opportunity to not only hone in on their future aspirations, but build a path to reach them confidently.

YTF Academy is uniquely positioned to help youth eliminate a life lived in poverty – often aiming for things they didn’t know were possible. The program operates with a curriculum based on principles and flexes to meet the needs of differing populations and circumstances.

Attitude is first. YTF Academy students are taught to dream. They are guided to tackle issues with a can-do attitude and encouraged to participate actively in the learning process.

Within this empowering context, students are taught to be both innovative and effective. Things like creativity and critical thinking top the list of skills students should walk away with upon graduation.

Health Issue Turns Into Inspiration

Nzambi

Nzambi is recovering from an infection that started after an ordeal that left her with multiple fractures on her left leg. She can’t play much, but notes her favorite subjects are science and Kiswahili – which she loves to speak.

In the course of her treatment she had to be admitted at the Kenyatta National Hospital for eight months. It is here that she noted the inefficiencies that plague a well-meaning workforce. In particular, she recalls Kenya’s biggest referral hospital having its reception area crammed with patients needing emergency attention.

“I would like to use the computer to come up with systems that would see to it that patients are attended to quickly and appropriately.”

She explains that as much as she likes the computer, she does not get to spend much time on it at home. When she does get a minute, she listens to her favorite musicians. She was particularly pleased to spend extra time at a computer and learn to code “Scratch” during the coding week at with YTF.

Besides a technology solution to facilitate faster admissions and attention in hospitals, Nzambi wants to learn how to use technology to establish easier ways of recording and sharing music videos.

On becoming a producer with 3D printing

precious

Proud graduate of YTF Academy, Precious holds up her certificate.

Young people in Africa make up nearly 40 percent of today’s working-age population, yet 60 percent are unemployed. Looking to the future, the World Bank estimates that some 11 million youth will enter Africa’s labor market every year for the next decade. 

Precious is a secondary school graduate awaiting admission into university to study nursing. Since enrolling in YTF Academy, Precious has learned to use Autodesk Fusion360 to design and model 3D printed items. Some of her product designs are proudly displayed on Thingiverse. 

Precious3

Precious, far left, learning from 3D printing teacher Donatus, middle, about the steps necessary to design 3D printed products.

A mismatch exists between the African education system and the jobs in a knowledge-based economy. Too many young graduates are earning degrees only to find that they are not qualified for lucrative employment opportunities, largely due to the lack of basic, technical and transferable skills.

YTF Academy is changing that by providing youth with marketable skills so that they have choices; as enthusiastic employees or as job creators themselves. 

“Being a student of YTF Academy and learning about 3D printing technology has taught me that as a  young entrepreneur, I can meet my communities needs without depending on any producer or supplier,” Precious explained. “Having these skills will enable me to continue to be relevant in the global marketplace. Maybe one day I will be able to 3D print medical devices and other parts.”

Five Easy Ways to Help YTF This Month

With pride in our work and gratitude in our hearts, here are a handful of ideas of how you can to help us keep driving our mission forward. (Need a refresher on our work? Here’s what we’re all about.)

1. Shop with AmazonSmile 

We know you’re online buying last-minute gifts. No? How about splurging online with your holiday bonus? We feel ya. Just know that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible  purchases to Youth For Technology Foundation whenever you shop on AmazonSmile, so click the link and continue shopping. Easy.

2. Share your tech equipment

Did you know YTF accepts donations of working technology equipment? We’re looking for desktop computers (monitors and CPUs), laptops, printers, photocopiers, overhead projectors, digital cameras and video recorders. In particular, we are always in need of Pentium IV desktops and higher, as well as laptops.

We’re not saying to poke around your great aunt’s basement during your holiday celebrations, but if you happen to find an unused piece of equipment in good working order, we certainly won’t say no.

3. Become a brand ambassador at your company (& match donations!)

We know many companies run workplace giving campaigns encouraging their employees to donate to a nonprofit of choice. This is one way to not only make a financial contribution to YTF, but also to be an ambassador for YTF in the company.

4. Show off your fundraising skills

Did you accidently make a couple dozen extra cookies this holiday season? Have one too many holiday parties on your calendar? Follow the lead of these 2 young sisters in the U.K., who wrote to YTF about a bake sale they were hosting to benefit YTF. So sweet!

5. Remember YTF in your year-end giving.

Did you take on the challenge in #4? Awesome. Is “helping make a positive change in the world” on your New Year’s resolution list? Even better. Donating to YTF is super easy and super satisfying, especially after reading about the people in our community who get a boost up in life, with your help.

Across Africa, A New Generation of Female Entrepreneurs Are Taking Control of Their Lives

Thousands of women entrepreneurs, like Ms. Afoma, benefit from YTF’s programs.

In May 2016, in partnership with and support from MasterCard, YTF told the story of Ms. Afoma at the World Economic Forum in Kigali. She owns Hair Wizard and only 12 years ago she said had “zero money in her pocket.” Today, she is a vibrant entrepreneur having employed over 30 people in her salon.

Ms. Afoma participated in YTF’s Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs Mobile Value Added Services (NWEMVAS). Since the program’s beginning in 2012, YTF has implemented over 1,200 business skills and financial capabilities workshops to 10,823 women entrepreneurs who created approximately 1,050 jobs, began 180 new businesses within the first six months after participation, expanded 450 businesses within the first six months, and generated $6.2 million in new revenue.

YTF trained an additional 1,600 women entrepreneurs in 2016 and is on schedule to train 350 women entrepreneurs and 150 of their female employees in 2017. YTF has added training for female employees of women entrepreneurs since their education levels and employability skills are extremely low. With training, women entrepreneurs are able to guide them in their educational and employability skill attainment. 

Problem-Solving into the Future: The Story of Priscilla

Priscilla profile

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the world’s next state-of-the-art inventor. Her name is Priscilla. She enrolled in YTF through her school in Nairobi last year and was further encouraged to pursue a computer science degree after high school graduation. Her career choice would be dedicated to inventing “tools that will continue making work easier for humankind.” In other words, her hard work would make other people’s hard work easier. She, like many of us, wishes to make the world a better place. Unlike most people, however, Priscilla can choose a course, no matter how difficult, and stick with it.  

She has the uncanny talent of going over unexpected hurdles that seem to have very little to do with her passion for technology.

“One of the hardest things I have ever found myself doing is passing my history subject in school,” said Priscilla. “I always found history class hard for me but one day I forced myself to study it comprehensively and I passed a very hard paper. Now failure in history is in my history!”

Through her hard work ethic, Priscilla becomes an innovator even with subjects that are not directly related to STEM education. She takes the scientific method and applies its structure to her environment. She observes and measures the extent of the problem on a daily basis. She presents her hypotheses, and after life gives her the chance to experiment with solutions, Priscilla comes out with a sound, firm theoretical solution to whichever problem she chooses to focus on, breaking each aspect of her life into a scientific process.

Priscilla on chalkboard

Problem: “I come from a community where most people are poor.”

Solution: “If I got the opportunity to change this state, that would create jobs for the youth and change their financial state, I would do it.”

Problem: “Political wrangles promote a country’s instability.”

Solution: “If I had the power in leadership, I would change political systems and the way people fight for power. I would help create a state that would promote peace in the nations.”

Priscilla with friends

Priscilla with her peers in YTF who also strive for a better world through technology.

Then Priscilla even wills her dedicated mindset onto her friends as she mentors them through their own challenges. Her friend Jane “hated biology in school, but after much convincing and a lot of practice and study, I was able to convince her otherwise.”

Priscilla doesn’t just overcome hard subjects; she finds a way to appreciate the topics and incorporate them into her life. Her broad knowledge of history, biology, and politics define as a sort of liberal arts student with a focus on technology. Priscilla even balances out her life with her prayer ritual that keeps her refreshed and confident in the morning. She says she “finds it refreshing to put her needs before God. I know He has me covered.” Priscilla allows different aspects of her life to all point her to education and achieving her dreams.

She prizes education highly and is hard on herself if she doesn’t try her best. Problem: Priscilla recalls one time when she “hid in the lady’s restroom for 90 minutes through a double lesson in school to avoid punishment of not completing my homework.” Priscilla said that it was “exceptionally unbecoming” of her and wonder how she could be so daring. While a rare occasion to her usual hard work ethic, Priscilla felt extremely embarrassed over the event and said that nobody would think she would run from her responsibilities. Hopefully, Priscilla learns that everyone has breaking points throughout their life and it’s what makes us human. Solution: We just stand back up and continue.  

Looks like we have a future world peace activist in the making. Will you join her in her scientific method of giving the world a better future? Click here to show support.

Making the World Better, Via West Louisville: Irena’s Story

Irena1b

“Engineers try to make the world better and they want to see the world better,” 12 year old Irena explained. At YTF, we 100% agree. Nearly all of the girls that walk through our doors say they want to make the world better. So, what’s stopping them?

Research shows that adolescent girls disengage from science and math during their middle school years, although their interest is very strong.  Girls frequently do not have exposure to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics, related careers, or know women working in STEM fields.

Irena_2

YTF’s 3D Printing Academy for Girls was created in 2016 to provide STEM inspiration for girls in Kentucky through making, inventing, and designing the world that they envision for themselves. Not only are they introduced to all things 3D printing, but they have opportunities to be mentored by women in technology and engineering.  

The students are exposed to design thinking with 3D printing, programming basics (using tools like Ozoblockly), and electronics (raspberry pi and Arduino). All this while being introduced to a comprehensive, industry applicable program taught using the Socratic method answering their own questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions.

Irena_1

Disengaging from STEM during adolescent years can be reversed by providing enrichment opportunities, hands-on learning, problem-based learning, exposure to women in STEM fields, seeing the practical impact for solving real-life needs, and mentorship from female experts in computer science and engineering.

YTF launched 3D Printing Academy for Girls strategically in West Louisville, where the a huge majority of youth (83 percent) live in poverty. Residents in the area African American (63 percent), Caucasian (37 percent), and Latino (one percent). The likelihood of participation in STEM fields is lower in West Louisville than for other students in the local school system (Jefferson County Public Schools).

Help someone like Irena get a brighter future: donate

 

Working for Herself, Reaching the World: Maureen’s Story

MaureenMaureen owns Afrocentric Afrique, a boutique established eight years ago in Nigeria. She first participated in YTF’s Women Entrepreneurs and Mobile Value Added Services program, which is designed to provide women entrepreneurs with the tools to sustain and expand their businesses. YTF trains women entrepreneurs, like Maureen, in financial skills, business capabilities and business strategies, and provides mentoring and networking opportunities.
Maureen_2

Maureen left a secure and stable job to start this business because she wanted to do what she loved – art. She also knew that entrepreneurship offered a lot more opportunities for women like herself.

Since participating in YTF’s program, Maureen has the knowledge and tools that she needs to market her products on global marketplaces. YTF has even paired her with someone to mentor, a young technical apprentice named Chiamaka. Chiamaka uses 3D printing software to design and model products that Maureen wants to sell to her customers. These items are 3D printed, allowing for customization and timely product fulfillment.
Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Nigeria 2014

Entrepreneurs like Maureen know that online marketplaces will revolutionize their businesses, operations, product development, and have the potential to spark exponential growth leading to job creation.

No longer must women leave home and go to brick-and-mortar shops to conduct business. No longer are Maureen’s customers just in her village—the world is now her customer base.

donateYou can hear more about Maureen’s business and how she is leverages the possibilities that 3D printing and online marketplaces afford here.

Help someone like Maureen get a brighter future: