How APTE is Bridging School-to-Work Transition for Youths in Senegal

ZIGUINCHOR, SENEGAL – In Senegal, about 200,000 youths join the labour force each year but many stay unemployed for years while many more remain underemployed for much longer. While the Senegalese economy is dominated by agricultural and informal activities that generate 92 percent of traditional and self-employed jobs, not many youths are equipped with the technical know-how and needed skills to tackle the job market.

In most case, especially for those who choose to have salary jobs, their competencies do not match the needs of the employment market. On the other hand, those who choose to be self-employed have not been prepared to the entrepreneurship world and given the necessary tools to succeed in that field.

This situation also resonates in other Africa countries. 60 percent of Africa jobless are youth, the World Bank says.

It is against this backdrop that Washington-based Education Development Center (EDC) with funding support from MasterCard Foundation launched the Projet de l’amélioration des performances de travail et d’entreprenariat (Improving Work Entrepreneurship Performances in Senegal), (APTE-Senegal), to help more than 30,000 Senegalese youth develop employability, professionalism and entrepreneurship skills they need to secure jobs or start a business.

The $15M project which will run for five years (2016-2021) builds on a similar, successful project in Rwanda called Akazi Kanozi which provided thousands of students in senior secondary  and TVET schools with work-readiness skills and school-to-work transition support to increase their chances of employment.

In Senegal, APTE will support the Senegalese government’s ambition and the presidential directive of “familiarising the youth with the professional world through an interaction with neighbouring industrial and productive activities and building their capacities in entrepreneurship and self-employment.” The project promises to improve Senegal’s general, technical and vocational education systems by helping students make better academic and professional orientation choices; offering them training programs based on employers’ needs, school to work transition and self-employment opportunities.

APTE-Senegal will focus on 200 secondary schools and 50 technical and TVET schools across six regions (i.e. Thies, Ziguinchor, Diourbel, Sedhiou, Kolda and Kedougou). The APTE project’s intervention zones are the poorest regions in Senegal, including for more than 50% schools in rural areas. Academy Inspectors will select the first cohort of schools based on set criteria such as the school’s operating system and technical capacity.

Young people will be taught technical and transferrable skills. The project will further provide three ways of transition for youths – proceed to the university and pursue tertiary education, joining the world of work (finding employment) and thirdly, to start their own business.

Disruptive innovative work-readiness               

With the government’s intention to integrate entrepreneurship into the official curriculum of secondary education and vocational training, APTE-Senegal brings an innovation to teaching approaches and techniques that put the students at the heart of education as the main actor and give them more responsibilities. Its curriculum will be taught from lower secondary school to first year of TVET School upward.

Séni Diop, Director of the APTE, said the project provides “a real opportunity for them as it offers a thorough curriculum on employability and entrepreneurship which the government has not managed to develop yet.”

APTE-Senegal Deputy Director for Programmes, Pascaline Baradji, also stated that the programme will “help learners acquire the necessary skills and be more exposed to the professional world.” She explained that there would be a curriculum to teach the relevant competencies to learners and encourage them to practice it through “innovative and fun activities, Entrepreneurship clubs (where visits to local companies), job shadowing experiences, internships, Open days (where local entrepreneurs who are also role models for the youth will visit schools to share their experience), Youth think tanks (where deeper reflection will take place to encourage learners to express themselves on employment/entrepreneurship or economic development related topics), Savings and Internal Lending Communities groups to facilitate learners’ financial education and introduce them to savings and micro-financing techniques and Leadership training workshops with an emphasis on oral communication techniques”.

Photo by: APTE-Senegal Staff

The initiative will further train 1,575 Senegalese teachers to roll out APTE au travail 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.

Some of the training learnt by the teachers include: personal development, interactive communication, behaviours and attitudes at work, leadership and collaboration and school and professional guidance.

Moussa Dieme, an English teacher in Kande Alassane Junior Secondary school, Ziguinchor, south of Senegal who benefitted from the recently concluded Teachers training programme, said the lessons learnt from the training “would facilitate to manage classrooms courses, students would be more communicative and self confident because they have already practiced different items.”

“I (have) started to test the module in my school at the second form. It is very interesting and students are enthusiastic and concerned,” Dieme told Rural Reporters, adding that “the program would further help students develop the kind of attitudes can help them to be successful in their lives. They will know how to communicate with others and how to manage their project”.

Dieme believes the programme would also support government’s policy on education and the fight to reduce unemployment in the country. “Our government have made professional training one of their priorities that’s why this training is very important.”

“Most students are generally sent to training school late when they fail at school. This program can support government policy on education in so far as it will guide them in the kind of training students need and help students profit from the right training early. Those students will be able to create their own enterprise and jobs which will reduce unemployment.”

An Engine for Growth            

Programme Manager, Education and Learning at The MasterCard Foundation, Samuel Yalew Adela, said technical skills taught under the APTE project will be tailored towards the market demand of the region where the project is being implemented. While some regions are focusing on agriculture, others will be mining and industry.

According to a World Bank study, there are 40 disciplines under the TVET level but only 65 percent of students chose only 4 among the 40. Adela said the remaining 36 has not been linked to existing business at the market and that is what APTE-Senegal will be working on reorientation around the technical skill.

Adela hopes that at the end of the programme, young people “will be confident enough to pursue what they want or what they want to be. They would know what to study and what kind of job will be available for them. If they want to start their own business, they will be able to identify what kind of business they will be venturing into. Also, there will also be a system that will cover the skill and the programme that will cover their siblings.”

Adoption and Inclusiveness

Although the APTE-Senegal was built on the success of Rwanda’s Akazi Kanoze, there was a little addition to the strategy adopted in Senegal. According to Baradji, “One innovation that was brought to the programme is the consultative process that was held in all 6 regions to introduce the project to local communities, discuss foreseen challenges based on their experience with similar projects and elaborate a regional action plan for each of the 6 regions.” These action plans are now an integral part of the project’s global action plan, following the technical validation workshop held in March in the presence of the Director of Lower Secondary School and the Director of TVET.

IT platforms and social media platforms were also introduced into the consultative approach. “We give a large part to the use of Facebook and IT platforms such as a website, WhatsApp, etc. as our target is young and often more receptive through those communication channels,” Baradji further explained.

Also, while the programme was launched at the senior secondary level and TVET in Rwanda, APTE-Senegal introduced its programme from the lower secondary school level so that youths can have the skills earlier on to set their goals in early secondary school, especially in terms of the transition –if they were to go to the upper secondary school and pursue university or go directly to TVET and equip themselves with skills and start their own business.

Sustainability

By 2021, at least 30,500 youth would have gone through the different activities of APTE-Senegal’s package and possess a sense of what a professional environment is or ultimately recruited. Also, more than 1,500 agents of both ministries, academy inspectors, school head teachers and directors, education inspectors and teachers would have been trained to empower youths and facilitate the implementation of the activities.

APTE-Senegal is working in close collaboration with the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of TVET to ensure the institutionalisation of the curriculum in the national academic curriculum. It is also working with the Ministry of youth employment and the private sector foundation for education to provide the necessary linkage and opportunity for youths to start business and opportunity for employment. To achieve this goal, it has developed an M&E system to collect, share and store evidence of the project’s impact to support the government’s decision-making towards the institutionalisation of the curriculum.

“Once this is established, APTE-Senegal school-to-work transition program and curriculum will be taught in all Senegalese schools in the 14 regions of the country; thus maximising the chances of having a qualified workforce and their integration in the professional world,” says Diop.

The Senegalese project will be used as a springboard for expansion into other Francophone.

“The plan is to take advantage of the regional collaboration. We believe this will be a good opportunity to showcase and learn from each other,” Adela said.

The Government of Rwanda has already integrated EDC’s Work Ready Now! approach in the national curriculum to equip general secondary and TVET students throughout the country with the skills they require to succeed.

Adela hopes that the same result will be achieved in Senegal. “We hope that this approach will be embedded or institutionalise at the national level in the curriculum which will benefit millions of young people in the country,” he said.

Busayo Sotunde is a prolific writer with special focus on Business, Entrepreneurship, Reproductive Health and other development issues in Africa. Her articles have been published by different outlets including Investing Port and Ventures-Africa.com. She has a penchant for reading and sustainable development. Follow Busayo on Twitter @BusayomiSotunde

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