Education is a fundamental human right and is widely acknowledged as one of the most sustainable means of transforming and empowering a population.Increasing access to education at all levels can improve the overall health and longevity of societies and grow economies. Yet in many developing countries, access is limited by numerous factors such as affordability, conservative gender roles, distance and conflict.
It is common to see the bottom poor struggle through basic primary and secondary education. High dropout levels are recorded, especially when learning is not subsidised or provided free of charge by the government. This has led to a rise in the number of unemployed youth in Africa today who lack the market-oriented and relevant skills to earn a living from jobs in the formal sector. Underemployment is also growing steadily with youth opting to search for informal jobs to make as much money as possible to provide for themselves and their families. Taking up casual employment in the informal sector is not sustainable as these opportunities are hard to come by and compensation is very little – averaging CHF 2 daily. In many cases, African societies are left with the burden of dealing with idle youth who will do whatever they can to survive, often engaging in crime.
Consequently, Swisscontact identified the need to sustainably close this skills gap and empower vulnerable youth through vocational training. Since inception 60 years ago, we have been engaged in the design and implementation of several sustainable projects. Together with our local partners, we implement comprehensive vocational training programmes. We support local institutions to build quality education systems while helping selected providers to improve the quality of their training courses. By involving the private sector, we are able to develop concepts for hands-on, apprenticeship-based vocational training. We operate on the premise that skills development goes beyond the conventional understanding of vocational training and includes every kind of learning that extends the ability of people to take control of their lives and increase their chances of a sustainable livelihood.
Swisscontact has, in the past, received funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to implement skills development projects globally. Today in the Central, East and Southern Africa (CESAF) region, there are five skills development projects funded by SDC. In the last few months, the region received additional funding for the continuation of 2 projects; the Promoting Market Oriented Skills Training and Employment Creation in the Great Lakes Region (PROMOST) project and the Promoting Life Skills and Livelihoods – Skills for Life (S4L) project.
PROMOST is the largest skills development project in the CESAF region and is implemented in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo. It received CHF 14,762,730 for the implementation of its 3rd phase which began on 1st September 2019 and will run till 30th June 2022. The project aims to contribute to increased income generation for the rural population in target geographical areas in the Great Lakes Region by improving their access to quality and labour-market-oriented vocational training and after training to support them to be economically productive. It seeks to achieve increased income for disadvantaged young women and men as a result of exposure to inclusive, relevant and well-coordinated Vocational Education and Training (VET) and labour market insertion leading to increased employment and self-employment opportunities. It is expected that by the end of the third phase, approximately 7,000 youth (600 in Rwanda, 3,800 in Burundi and 2,600 in DRC) will have benefited from the training opportunities offered. 50% of these trainees will be women, and at least 70% will be productively engaged (employed or self-employed), earning 20% more income.
The Skills for Life project also received its 3rd series of funding valued at CHF 3,877,105 for implementation in the next three years from 1st September 2019 to 31st August 2022. The project aims to promote socio-economic integration of refugees and the host communities in Kakuma and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement through enhanced self/employment, job creation and income generation initiatives. It’s unique as it does not only target youth from the refugee communities but also those from the host community. The skills learnt in the training sessions within the camps represent a broad range of trades and occupations, most of which will be useful in the event of early repatriation or resettlement. By the end of the 3rd phase, the project aims to have enrolled 6,000 youth (50% female, 50% refugee) to the training sessions, 4,600 of whom should have graduated. It is anticipated that at least 3,000 direct beneficiaries (out of the targeted 4,600) will have gained meaningful employment and self-employment and at least 2,500 will have gained more than 100% additional income in comparison to what they earned before training. Further, the project expects to contribute to the start-up and establishment of 1,300 new micro-businesses (both individual and group businesses) and that 2,400 beneficiaries will begin saving and accessing loans and financial advisory services from Mavuno groups and other formal financial service providers.