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.”

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.