Improving Work-Readiness and School-to-Work Transitions for Senegalese Youth

MasterCard Foundation
Youth is Africa’s greatest asset, asserts Jobs for Youth in Africa, a 2016 report by the African Development Bank. Yet with 11 million youth entering the African workforce every year, the continent’s youth remain on the margins of the formal economy, most working in temporary, often vulnerable jobs, many of them either under or unemployed.
Secondary schools and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) can play a role in providing young people with the tools they need to successfully transition from secondary school to the workplace or entrepreneurship.
One such initiative is set to launch later this week in Senegal, inspired in part by the country’s education system’s own hunger for tangible education curriculum reform, and elevated by a successful intervention by Education Development Centre (EDC) in Rwanda which helped 25,000 young Rwandans make the leap from school to employment.
Inspired by the Rwandan Akazi Kanoze, which means “work well done” in Kinyarwanda, the new Projet de l’amélioration des performances de travail et d’entreprenariat (APTE-Senegal), hopes to reach more than 30,000 Senegalese youth with skills-training to support them as they transition from school to work, entrepreneurship or further education. APTE-Senegal will focus on 200 secondary schools and 50 technical and TVET schools throughout the country, providing students with career counseling and transition to work services, including entrepreneurship coaching and mentoring, job shadowing, internship and job placement. The initiative will further train 1,575 Senegalese teachers to roll out EDC’s Work Ready Now! curriculum, a program that helps young people in emerging economies develop the skills they need to succeed in the workplace or in the world of self-employment.
Recognizing the mismatch between youth preparation and the kinds of soft skills sought by employers, USAID in 2009 invited EDC to design an innovative work-readiness program for out-of-school Rwandan youth. The result was Akazi Kanoze, which consisted of developing a work-readiness curriculum through which youth would undergo a modular, 100-hour training lasting from three weeks to three months. Akazi Kanoze further provided workforce linkages through which youth were provided with access to entry job opportunities, internships, apprenticeships, as well as formal sector jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities. Youth who completed the work-readiness curriculum were also awarded a nationally recognized certificate from Rwanda’s Workforce Development Authority.
The Foundation joined forces with EDC for Akazi Kanoze’s second phase through the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), expanding its efforts from exclusively focusing on out-of-school youth to all Rwandan secondary school and TVET students, and eventually indirectly reaching all Rwandan students enrolled in secondary and TVET schools across the country.
But it was perhaps the high level of engagement at every level of Rwanda’s education system which allowed the Akazi Kanoze project to firmly take root in the country. Akazi Kanoze’s implementation in the formal secondary and TVET system involved several steps and processes that drive expansion success including government ownership, private sector engagement, stakeholder involvement, capacity building, evidence base and close follow up and support for frontline workers.
Leaders in Rwanda’s education sector, for example, were early adopters of key aspects of the Akazi Kanoze model, namely its competency-based curriculum for both TVET and general secondary schools nationwide. Moreover, the Rwanda Ministry of Education and its agencies, such as the Rwanda Education Board and Workforce Development Authority, were deeply involved in the process and on many occasions leading and facilitating actions and decisions that allowed the innovative model to be taken to scale.
The Ministry of Education ensured the involvement of the private sector, civil society organizations and relevant government sector offices in the National Steering Committee for youth employment, to not only ensure members of the steering committee provide their input to the content of the new curriculum, but also to regularly follow up its implementation. These engagement tasks also happen at provincial and district levels, the structures where implementation functions are activated and monitored.
Based on the promise of the Akazi Kanoze experience in Rwanda, the Foundation is deepening its partnership with EDC to adapt and implement a similar initiative to provide Senegalese youth with their best chance at successfully transitioning from school to work. The demand for change within Senegal’s education system is palpable. Even prior to EDC’s introduction of APTE-Senegal, the country’s authorities – from ministries to local civil society organizations – had shown great interest in embedding EDC’s Work Ready Now! curriculum, empowering them to support youth to become employable, to develop their own business and to confidently explore opportunities on their own. If successful, APTE-Senegal could serve as a model for other Francophone West African nations to follow.
It’s a sentiment shared by Eric Nshimiyimana, a young man who benefitted from Akazi Kanoze: “With education, you can see how even the smallest opportunity might have potential. We can learn how to mobilize and achieve our goals.”


Originally published by MasterCard Foundation