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The Potentiam Youth Development Centre

In 2013 global unemployment rose and in Uganda the unemployment rate is currently at 68%. The Potentiam youth centre was started in 2012 to provide training, capacity building, personal development and mentoring to youth in order to make them more employable and ultimately improve their livelihoods. Fontes Foundation did a needs assessment before embarking on this project and the concept of the Potentiam youth development centre was designed around the gaps that were found. The centre has registered a fairly high success rate since its conception in 2012 graduating 147 youths and putting 82% of the youth in employment within the first 2 months of completing the course at the centre.

Photo of Apiyo Oweka-Laboke
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The youth problematic, however, is extremely complex and has a number of social, economic, cultural and historic causes. According to the Ugandan Government, around 500,000 Youth graduate from higher education centres per year, but only about 80,000 get jobs.  This does not include all the Youth that never make it to higher education institutions, due to high school fees in secondary school and university. A number of skills training initiatives have failed. In some cases the youth are not able to use their practical skills after finishing the education and simply sell off the start up tools they received.  Despite the complexity of the problem, there is no doubt about the importance of youth empowerment in Uganda. This study was carried out at a particularly critical time, after riots had rocked Kampala weekly through the Walk-to-work campaigns organised by the opposition in reaction to high food and fuel prices. Local and international medial widely covered the events, and also pointed out that most rioters were unemployed youth seeking any distraction from their idle lives. The danger of having unemployed and discontented youth with no hope or vision for the future around the city has suddenly been brought to the attention of government officials, local leaders, NGOs and donors alike. The Government of Uganda has made employment for Youth one of its priorities in the new term that started recently, and the Government aims to create 20,000 jobs next year through a job-creating fund5. However, this will not be enough because Uganda has one of the most youthful populations in the world with 50% of the population below the age of 146. This makes an exacerbation of this problem inevitable in future, and calls for immediate action.
The Potentiam Development Youth Centre (PYC)
The PYC was set up following the request of the Tukole Youth Group, a community based organization working to improve the livelihoods of youth in the low income urban areas. After an extensive research effort by Fontes it became clear that the main obstacles of the youth in this area are:
· Unemployment
· Lack of education
· Lack of start-up capital for businesses
· Lack of practical skills
· Lack of creativity
· HIV/Aids
It has become PYC’s goal to address these issues in an integrated way. Consequently, the curriculums of the various courses are designed to bring at least 70% of the students in productive activity at least 18 month after completion of the course. Many students join the Youth Centre through one of the two short courses in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) or Basic English and Literacy. These 8-week programmes are designed for students with any educational background and aim to lay the basis for the longer core course. The core course takes six month and includes modules in Applied Business Skills, Business English, ICT and Personal Development. The focus of the education lies at the development of practical skills, something which is clearly missing in the formal education system. Ultimately, it is designed to build the necessary capacity to successfully found and run a business.
 

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Photo of Luisa Fernanda

Apiyo,
Thanks for such a detailed and in-depth post. Beyond training and education what do you think are other important areas to focus on to tackle youth unemployment in Uganda? Is the private sector currently carrying out efforts to change the landscape of youth unemployment?
Thanks for contributing such important insights to this conversation,

Photo of Apiyo Oweka-Laboke

Hello Luisa, I am really excited about this challenge as someone who has worked in youth development for the last 6 years. Beyond TVET which is probably the most common and effective solution youth unemployment I believe on-job-training is essential. Also the youth in Uganda need an attitude adjustment caused sadly by the poor education system in Uganda. Poor attitudes towards work and lack of innovation or critical thinking are some of the factors that have perpetuated youth unemployment in Uganda. We also need flexibility of training programmes so as to easily adjust to the job demands of the country. like right now because of the booming construction industry and oil industry in the country there is demand for heavy machinery operators and yet there is no institution that is providing training or certification for this job.

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