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Connecting Youth to Living-Wage Jobs Through Digital Skills and Professional Preparation

Samasource Training equips Kenyan youth with market-aligned skills, and connects them to living-wage jobs in the tech industry.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

For many East African youth, full-time formal employment is a distant dream. Not only do many youth lack market-aligned skills relevant in the modern workplace, but they are also unprepared to navigate the job search and application process, and require coaching on CV design and job interview preparation. Samasource Training (formerly Samaschool) addresses these challenges through an accelerated training program that equips unemployed youth with market-aligned skills -- including digital literacy, professional soft skills, and job interview preparedness -- and then directly connects them to employers that pay a living wage. Throughout training, we provide wrap-around support services, such as transportation stipends, free childcare, and free professional attire, to ensure that trainees have the resources they need to successfully complete the program and transition to full-time employment. By combining training, direct connections to employers, and wrap around services, Samasource Training provides a comprehensive solution that rapidly connects youth to formal living-wage employment. Many Samasource Training graduates go on to work at our sister organization, Samasource, where they increase their income 3.7x within four years. Others go to work for one of our many other employment partners throughout Nairobi, Kenya, including TNS Kantar and Startimes. In the first three quarters of 2016, we've trained 656 youth, 70% of whom have successfully secured jobs.

WHO BENEFITS?

We reach a population that is highly disconnected from formal employment, living in unsafe housing conditions, and struggling with poor nutrition. Most of our trainees live in informal settlements such as Kibera in Nairobi, Africa’s second largest slum. On average, our trainees are 23-years-old, 45% are female, and are 72% unemployed or in school.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

Samasource Training (formerly Samaschool) is 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in San Francisco. We currently partner with four community partners throughout Nairobi: Digital Opportunities Trust, Maji Mazuri Youth Group, Kibera Town Centre, and CAP-Youth Enterprise Initiative.

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 divided our beneficiaries into two groups: (i) those who completed the program successfully and got jobs, and (ii) those who completed the program, but failed to secure full-time work afterwards. Unexpectedly, feedback from both groups focused on a similar program component: job interview preparation. For the successful group, we were surprised how many people emphasized the importance of interview preparation in their success. While trainees valued the professional skills they gained, most expressed how the mock interviews gave them the confidence and knowledge they needed to get through their first professional interview. For the group who failed their interviews, the overarching sentiment was that they felt extremely nervous during the job interviews, despite feeling confident that they were qualified for the jobs. Based on this combined feedback, we believe that the current amount of interview preparation is appropriate for the majority of students, but that a small percentage of each cohort will require remedial training. Accordingly, we have created a 2-day remedial class for students who fail their job interviews, which will focus primarily on interview prep.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Samasource Training is the sister program of Samasource, an industry leading “Impact Sourcing” company founded in 2008. Samasource has employed over 8,000 people traditionally excluded from the formal sector to execute data projects for some of the world’s leading companies, such as Google and Microsoft. By providing an entry point to formal work, Samasource enables people to earn a living wage, and gain work experience and skills that lift them and their families out of poverty. Our close partnership with Samasource gives us unique insights into the specific skill requirements of modern digital workers, and provides a direct employment pathway for many of our trainees. Samasource portfolio managers monitor our Trainees' performance, and help us understand skill gaps that can be addressed earlier during training. Samasource also gives us visibility into their sales pipeline, enabling our curriculum developers to identify growing industry verticals and proactively design the curriculum to meet these skill requirements. As a result, our curriculum is always improving, making our trainees exceptionally well equipped to enter the workforce.

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

One of the reasons that the problem of youth unemployment has not been solved is that it is comprised of three sub-problems: (i) a lack of occupationally aligned skills, (ii) a lack of connections to viable employment opportunities, and (iii) a lack of basic support resources to help youth complete training and transition to full-time employment. While different organizations have solved for these problems separately, few have attempted to solve for all three holistically.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

The primary unanswered question is how to scale our intervention while maintaining program efficacy. Our model depends on two sets of partners - our community-based partners that provide training space and infrastructure, and our employer partners, who hire trainees upon graduation. While we have developed guidelines to vet both types of partners, rapidly expanding both sets of partnerships simultaneously will present a challenge. Another unanswered question is how to fund this expansion in a way that moves the program towards financial sustainability. While grant funding is necessary now, we would like to move towards a financially sustainable model that maintains program accessibility.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

This idea reflects the current state of the program, which was founded in early 2014, and has continually evolved to improve outcomes. Our training initially focused exclusively on skills training, but over time we incorporated employer partnerships to create employment pathways for trainees, and wrap-around support services to increase completion and job placement rates. Based on user feedback we are now in the process of incorporating a two-day remedial class for trainees who failed their initial job interviews after graduation.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Samasource Training is six full-time employees in Kenya, who receive additional support from nine members of the executive, finance, impact, and development teams at Samasource. The core Samasource Training team consists of Program Manager Phillip Chikwiramakomo, who leads the day to day operations and partnerships, Sarah Ojuando, who leads curriculum development, and four instructors. We also partner with four community-based organizations that provide classroom space & infrastructure.

Founded in 2009, Samasource is an industry leader in “Impact Sourcing,” the process of hiring marginalized women and youth to complete digital work. Through our managed service model, Samasource has trained and employed over 7,000 people traditionally excluded from the formal sector to execute data projects for some of the world’s leading companies, such as Google and Microsoft. By providing an entry point to formal work, Samasource enables individuals to earn a living wage, and gain work experience and skills that lift them and their families out of poverty.

In 2014, Samasource leveraged its industry expertise and training experience to create a sister program -- Samasource Training -- an accelerated 10-day program that provides unemployed youth with a rapid connection to formal jobs.

Samasource Training is effective because it leverages a unique combination of market-driven curriculum design, employment pathways, and wrap-around support services.


Market-driven curriculum design

The Samasource Training curriculum is designed specifically for the skill requirements of the modern digital economy, and is consistently updated to incorporate new skills required by growing market segments. This is achieved through a tight feedback loop between Samasource and Samasource Training. Within this system:

  • Samasource provides unique insight into the skills that workers need, which is incorporated into Samasource Training’s iterative curriculum development process.
  • Samasource evaluates the Samasource Training graduates it employs, helping to identify skill gaps that could have be addressed earlier during training.
  • Samasource provides Samasource Training with visibility into its sales pipeline, enabling Samasource Training to identify service offerings that are in growing demand from customers, and proactively align the curriculum to anticipate and meet these needs.


Employment Pathways

Samasource Training drives employment outcomes through two employment pathways:

  1. Samasource: Our curriculum feedback loop makes Samasource Training graduates ideal candidates for roles at Samasource. As such, the majority of graduates go on to work at Samasource. 
  2. Employer Partners: Samasource Training has developed formal and informal partnerships with a wide range of hiring partners throughout Nairobi, enabling us to source a strong pipeline of job opportunities for graduates.


Wrap-around support services

We serve an at-risk population that faces many barriers to formal sector employment. Most trainees are living in poverty, have little to no formal sector experience, and face domestic obligations, such as caring for children or other dependents. Samasource Training provides a range of wrap-around services, either directly, or through partner organizations, designed to help students complete the 10-day intensive course and succeed at job interviews. These include:

  • Travel stipends for job interviews: Many students cannot afford the transportation to and from job interviews. We provide repayment-optional stipends.
  • Professional attire: Most students lack the professional attire required for job interviews. To address this, we provide free clothing.
  • Child care: Caring for children is a major barrier to participation for young mothers. We work with community partners to ensure access to free or affordable childcare services.
  • Continued Mentorship: At the end of training every student is matched to a mentor who helps them transition to full-time employment.

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Above $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?

  • More than a year

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

Samasource Training relies heavily on partners to execute our work and grow our program. Joining the Amplify portfolio will enable us to connect with likeminded individuals and organizations working to expand youth employment opportunities in East Africa. Establishing strong alliances will be especially important as we prepare to scale in the coming years.

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