OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

YEA! Youth Employment Accelerator using tech & peer learning to train & place youth at scale

Combines mobile learning with peer-led workshops and team projects to train youth in digital/soft skills & place with leading employers

Photo of Rebecca Harrison
3 3

Written by

EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Nearly 1 in 5 young Kenyans are unemployed. Experts cite a 54% mismatch between the needs of employers and graduate skills. Most employability programmes have 2 big problems: 1) They don't equip youths with the right skills to get and keep a job and 2) They're expensive to run and so can't scale. AMI's 'Youth Employment Accelerator' is different. We take a 'market-first' approach to ensure we're training for skills employers actually need. And we leverage technology and peer learning to radically cut delivery costs without sacrificing impact. After our initial pilot, 89% of participants said they were 'a lot more confident' about getting a job' & 100% would recommend it to their friends. The idea: - 1000s of unemployed youth around Nairobi take a free selection course on their smartphones. The most successful join a 6-week in-person programme. Others continue with online accelerator - Recruits work on team projects, online self-study & peer-led activities. - Assessment is peer-led or automated online: randomly assigned 'buddies' grade assignments, group assessments for projects, multiple choice for technical subjects. - Expert coaching focuses on video CVs, e-portfolios & interviews. Employer visits keep it real - Focus on core 'workplace' skills e.g. self motivation, organisation, team work, problem solving. - 50-75% placed directly in jobs. Recruits access support through hotline & online. AMI trains bosses in how to manage 1st jobbers

WHO BENEFITS?

YEA is for unemployed youth people aged 18-25 from households living <$2/pp/day around Nairobi. The pilot attracted more men than women. Longer term we envisage scaling across urban Africa. At least 50-75% will transition directly into jobs in customer service and sales. The first job will be a stepping stone out of poverty for receipts and their families. The skills, mind-sets and workplace readiness that will set them up for ongoing career success, productivity and prosperity.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

The African Management Initiative (AMI) is a social enterprise pioneering a scalable approach to work-place learning for Africa. We provide practical & affordable learning programmes for managers, entrepreneurs, employees & job-seekers with a blend of online, in-person and on-the-job practice.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Kenya

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

We ran a pilot of the programme and have sought extensive beneficiary feedback, which informed the following design changes: - 89% feel a lot more confident about getting a job, but still want more help finding a job. We need to start placement process earlier. Participants LOVED employer guest speakers, we’ll be adding more of these, and also inviting successful alumni to speak. - Community projects were a surprise hit with participants. We’ll be integrating these into the programme more strategically in the future, and involving employers - Participants love the online courses, but also want more face time. We’re experimenting with self facilitation supported by junior facilitators and in-person study groups to allow for more face time without prohibitive cost increases. We’ll proactively ‘teach’ participants how to facilitate each other. - Participants don’t check email! We’ll include more SMS and WhatsApp & allow more time for marketing/participant recruitment - We're thinking scale. We need funders. We're talking to employers so future programmes could be run in response to very direct & specific employers, with jobs waiting for successful participants

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

There are dozens of employability programmes but ours is unique in its focus on design for scale, our ongoing support for participants on the job, and our focus on real labour market needs & deep understanding of the employer: 1) SCALE: By leveraging AMI's technology and peer–learning approach, we can deliver a uniquely combination of high impact AND scalable design, reducing programme delivery cost to about 20% of the average for employability programmes 2) ON-THE-JOB support: Many programmes fail when recruits enter the workplace because there is no transition support. By leveraging AMI's experience with blended learning, we can provide ongoing support once recruits are in jobs, including an online learning community and network, a programme phone hotline, and a course for managers of new hires - based on our existing experience working with managers. 3) FOCUS ON THE EMPLOYER: Many programmes focus only on the participant. Thanks to our existing work with employers across Africa, we start FIRST by understanding the real needs of the labour market, and design training specifically to fill those gaps.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HAS NOT BEEN SOLVED?

1) EDUCATION NOT FIT FOR PURPOSES: Post-secondary education either focuses on academic concepts (in universities) or technical skills (TVET). Very few help develop the general work readiness skills employers require. 2) SCALE OF THE NEED: There are many effective employability programmes, but few are designed for scale. They typically cost $2k+ per person and so are only able to reach small numbers. We need a solution that is designed for scale 3) NO LABOUR MARKET FOCUS: Many programmes focus on the participant not the employer, and so do not redress the skills mismatch. We need an approach that STARTS with understanding employer requirements and designs backwards.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

- How far can we push our ideas around self facilitation and peer support? - Will recruits take what they’ve learnt to go and apply for jobs, secure jobs and then stick with them? - Will our recruits outperform others in securing jobs and then performing in those jobs? If so, how can we quantify the value to employers - What’s the best way of engaging this demographic when not in the classroom, before, during and after the programme? - What is the final delivery cost of this programme, and how does that change at scale? - How far are employers and/or participants willing to pay? We think we can prove the value to employers - need to test this. Will donors subside the balance?

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

AMI’s core business it to provide practical and affordable learning programmes for managers, entrepreneurs and employees already in jobs or running businesses. We use a blended online/offline methodology that focuses on on-the-job skills and performance. With YEA, we are leveraging our expertise around learning methodology and our core tech and content assets to develop a new approach specifically to help unemployed youth transition into employment. YEA is similar to our other work in that it draws on our core learning methodology: flipped classroom (learn theoretical concepts online and use in-person time for interaction & practice), peer support, and on-the-job practice and feedback. But we have adapted our design for this group, creating new content, adding components like the community project, and critically, adding the job placement component.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

AMI will be the lead implementer, leading programme design, project management, content provision, programme implementation and monitoring. We are exploring potential partnerships for the placement piece, which is not AMI's core competence. Potentially we could work with recruitment organisations to place our recruits, once they have completed AMI training. We have started to identify potential partners in this regard. We are also looking for partners to help us replicate & scale the project.

Youth Employment Accelerator - Preparing youth with the right skills & experiences for the workplace 

LEARNING PROGRAMME OVERVIEW

The YEA programme is designed to give recruits the skills and experience they need to succeed when they enter the workplace. Based on interviews with over 30 of Kenya's fast-growing companies, AMI identified a set of soft skills, technical skills and workplace knowledge often missing in new hires. These key skill gaps are at the core of the YEA programme.

AMI uses a blended-learning model with online courses complementing in-person workshops and team projects. Recruits will spend 6 weeks working full-time in small teams to do their assignments, work on projects, practice inter-personal skills, give and receive feedback and learn how business works. At the end of the 6-week 'bootcamp', recruits are matched and recruited in to entry-level positions in customer care and sales, and then supported over the first few months on the job.

What's unique about this programme?

Professional experience: recruits are treated like 'employees of the programme', and behave the way they would at work (dress professionally, ask good questions, manage time effectively, receive feedback, know how companies work)

Practical skills: Built around the practical business & workplace skills & identified as most needed (and often missing) in new hires. Specifically soft skills, professionalism, typing, customer service, asking questions, problem solving

Real-world assignments: Each week, recruits explore a different industry and learn functional skills. Assignments are given that mirror what recruits will actually be doing when employed (e.g. take a customer service call, sell a product, present to your boss)

Teamwork: Working in small groups of 4-6, recruits will learn to work collaboratively, receive feedback, review each others's work and provide peer coaching and support. They'll also learn to navigate challenging team dynamics and pressures.

Exposures to companies: Recruits will get the opportunity to learn about companies, positions and work-life in general through periodic engagement with partner companies (in the form of on-site visits, shadowing opportunities, etc)

Community projects: To both practice managing projects and teams, as well as work on something meaningful for their local communities, recruits will be tasked with completing a community projects with their teams over the course of the programme.


ADDRESSING SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE THAT NEW HIRES OFTEN LACK

Recruits will be learning the following skills to help prepare them for an entry level position:

- Finding a job

- Mastering your job

- Making the job a success

- Knowing your business

- Mastering sales

- Mastering customer service

- Managing your new recruit (for managers)

ONGOING SUPPORT POST-PLACEMENT...FOR RECRUITS & THEIR MANAGERS

Simply placing a YEA graduate isn't enough - to ensure that the new hire can effectively adapt to the workplace and learn to thrive in their role, support is offered post-placement in the form of coaching, additional training and peer support.

The YEA programme also believes that for new hires to be successful, they need to be well managed. So we've developed a short course for front-line managers on how to manage new recruits. This course will be offered to partner companies who hire YEA graduates, and can be enhanced with other management courses offered by AMI.


We are half way through a pilot for this programme. We've completed the training phase and are now working on placement. Initial feedback and data is very encouraging. 100% of participants said they would recommend the programme to peers and 89% said they felt 'a lot more confident' about finding a job at the end of the programme. At AMI, we interviewed 12 of them for 6 places on our new graduate recruitment scheme and were blown away by their confidence and competence. They were particularly good at the team challenge and presentation. Many said they were terrified of presenting in public before the programme but now felt confident. Almost half of the recruits are now in the job sourcing process - either at interview stage or waiting or feedback,  and an few have been successful. We have several bulk opportunities in early 2017 and expect to meet our target of seeing 50-70% transition.

Once we have this data, we'll step back and think about what next in terms of scaling. We're convinced this programme is unique in its ability to generate real impact at very low cost. We believe we could reduce delivery cost to $350 per person at scale - a fraction of what traditional employability programmes cost. But we also want to pass some of that cost on to employers. Alongside placement data, it will be critical to gather feedback from employers on what value they perceived in hiring our recruits versus others. Can we capture that value and persuade them to pay a portion of the fee for future programmes? Once we have that data, we will be able to build a case for funders to subsidise the difference.

We also want to test ways to further reduce costs, for example by trying out self facilitation, and to increase placement rates by being even more responsive to labour market needs. Could we make future programmes even more targeted around a particular industry or role, making placement even easier? Or could we partner with recruitment firms to ensure jobs are available for our recruits? 

And finally, we need to look at how we can reach even further to the disadvantaged. Our model will always work best in an urban setting, given the bandwidth requirements and the need to be close to high volume employers. But we could work harder to reach less advantaged youth, perhaps by diversifying advertising. Facebook was our most successful and lowest cost advertising channel by far, but with additional funding and perhaps some PR/media, we might be able to get the word out more aggressively to low-income communities, perhaps even running 'road-shows' with tablets available for participants to sign up and perhaps some facilitators for an impromptu session. We would love to try some of these ideas if we are able to raise follow-on funding.

For more information please go to http://yea.africanmanagers.org 

SHARE ONE SENTENCE ABOUT THE IMPACT YOU WOULD LIKE THIS PROJECT TO HAVE FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, AND ONE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ANSWER TO GET THERE.

We want to be helping tens of thousands of unemployed youth prepare and transition into meaningful work. To do this, we need to understand exactly what the business model looks like for key stakeholders (employers, youth, potentially schools/universities)

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Between $500,000 and $1,000,000

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

HOW LONG HAVE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES BEEN WORKING ON THIS PILOT PROJECT TOGETHER?

  • Between 6 months and a year

WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING AMPLIFY'S PORTFOLIO OF INNOVATORS?

We have tried to integrate design thinking principles into our organisation and would love to benefit from a more structured approach, with support on how to apply these principles specifically to this challenge. We're also excited about joining a network of like-minded and passionate organisations trying to change the world and would expect to learn from others and contribute value where we can.

3 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Chelsea Takamine
Team

Rebecca Harrison We've featured your idea in a new blog post celebrating additional ideas from this Challenge. Thank you for your participation in this Challenge! https://challenges.openideo.com/blog/celebrating-youth-empowerment-challenge-ideas

View all comments