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.

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

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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.”

“My Desire to Learn Was Greater”: The Story of Beverline

We’ve all groaned at the thought of having to go to school in the early morning and repeat the mundane process of government-issued education. But what if going to high school wasn’t required and not many of our peers got the chance to attend?

Beverline, YTF student in Nairobi, Kenya

Beverline, YTF student in Nairobi, Kenya

Beverline is a form three (9th grade) student at Nile Road Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya. Our 16-year-old YTF student admits that “the hardest thing I have ever had to do is go to high school … and I did it eventually because my desire to learn was greater.”  She has taken the reins of her passion and looks to the future with hope in technology.  

Similar to the college experience in the U.S., where the wealthy have the opportunity to continue their education, going to high school in Kenya is a luxury. Beverline’s desire to learn was greater than any hardship high school could throw at her both from her external circumstances and her inner fear.

Of the youth in Kenya, students like Beverline who attend high school are a minority. “Over a quarter of young people have less than a lower secondary education and one in ten did not complete primary school,” according to World Education News and Review. Even before YTF, Beverline “always had passion for computers and their applications.” The mountain of difficulties that stand in her way don’t stop Beverline from continuing her education.

Big name issues such as racism, poverty, gender inequality, and low graduation rates hover over Beverline’s home in Nairobi. But the trouble comes too close for comfort when her friends drop out of school because their parents couldn’t afford the fees or when her own neighbors don’t have access to basic human rights, like shelter. “My community is deprived of proper housing standards,” says Beverline. The environment she lives in doesn’t exactly provide a road to success. Then Beverline has to undergo the usual nerves everyone experiences of meeting new people and worrying about the regular concerns of schoolwork and drama.

While responsibilities in the traditional sense are often reserved for adult life, many burdens are often left on the shoulders of society’s youth. Through her personal ambitions, relations, and knowledge, Beverline takes on the burden of responsibility in exchange for a future of possible success. Since her participation with YTF in April 2015, Beverline has seen many changes in her life. Her friends have gained interest in the program, she has mentored her sister and cousins on overcoming life challenges, and her family is ecstatic with her engagement in education.

Beverline2Beverline revealed that her “family is happy that during the holidays I am actively engaged in the programs that are beneficial to me in the future and that can help me make money if I was able to apply them productively.”

No matter how great the challenge, what matters in the end is how great the effort and how many educational resources are provided. The turmoil of fighting your difficult surroundings shows how education is key to fulfilling your dreams. This techie-extraordinaire wants to be an IT expert and looks up to television anchor and renowned journalist in Kenya, Lilian Muli. Beverline loves Lilian’s confidence and wants to exhibit the same composure in real life. Her journey is just starting out, but the possibility for success is there. If you want to help Beverline and girls like her achieve their dreams, there are many ways to show support. There are volunteer opportunities and donation alternatives. Even keeping updated on the YTF story and spreading awareness helps more than you know.

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”-Winston Churchill