Snap shot of an apparel factory floor — As you walk from the start to finish hundreds of meters away, you see how a simple piece of denim fabric becomes a pair of Levi’s jeans!

Saving a possibly lost Generation — my work at a non-profit

Youth unemployment demystified

Today, 75 million youth around the world are unemployed and 3x as many are underemployed. What does that REALLY mean — If unemployed and underemployed youth made up a country, that country would be within the top 5 (out of ~240 countries) in the world population rankings. Yet, 40% of employers state that skills shortage is driving entry level job vacancies.

This skill parity is driven by several factors
 — Education: Youth of the appropriate age have not completed secondary school — in Kenya, it is two-third of the youth. This is because they didn’t have enough money to pay for schools, or there were farm or marital chores to attend to
 — Industry-specific knowledge: Schools seem to fall short in imparting knowledge that would make youth employable. This is where some youth are proactive and get certifications from vocational courses offered by the government. In other cases, the youth are unaware of such courses or don’t have the means to pay for one
 — Diminishing ROI for entry level jobs: Employers spend a lot to source for entry level talent, screen and recruit them, and train them. Due to social or domestic constraints, dropout rates for marginalized youth are high. In several cases where they don’t drop out, there is an attitude & mindset issue. Employers are seeing diminishing returns on their investment in talent due to the high turnover rate.

Enter Generation Initiative…

It is the all too familiar solution to unemployment — A skill building program to train young adults and provide them job opportunities. What makes the non-profit interesting is the specific methodology enabling them to scale across 5 continents — changing the lives of 13,000 young people in the last 2 years. Graduates make 2–6 times the income they did before the program.

In my opinion, these are some critical aspects of the program that ensures scalability:
 — Targeted industry selection: Industries to launch training programs are selected through a thorough data-driven approach coupled with a practical angle (e.g., availability of donor funding)
 —Screening: Youth are screened for the appropriate intrinsics such as commitment, persistence, being coachable, etc., — If you don’t have the right attitude, how is the right skill going to be any help?
— Skills gap based curriculum: Creating kick-ass training “bootcamp” curriculum co-created with employers and accreditation organizations, supported by trainers : focus is on teaching technical and soft skills to survive the business world
— Data-driven approach: Like all well-run startups, they invest in building up their data. How else can you measure impact or demonstrate ROI for employers/ donors to fund the program?

Why did I choose to work with the Generation Initiative?

I have always practiced social awareness and extended small contributions of time/ money where I could. But, I have never set aside a significant amount of time to “make a difference”. I chanced upon this video and felt incredibly inspired — PLEASE WATCH!(Notice that he does not use any visual cues for his 3-min speech. What a remarkable feat for someone with such humble beginnings!)

The stark disparity in our lives deeply disturbed me. I was the same age as Simon — while he was a statistic in the unemployed population, I led a privileged life receiving the right mentorship and exposure. This speech tugged at my heartstrings to step forward and find an opportunity to be part of this movement.

What am I working on?

I love getting my hands dirty. So I am working with a team to operationally manage the launch of our newest program that trains youth to be Sewing Machine Operators (aka entry level tailors).

I will also be working to connect the alumni and provide all the youth a community to depend on and give back to. I’m extremely excited about hosting all the ~7000 grads at an alumni event in September!

Lastly, I will help them with social media marketing and PR with employers and donors.

Inspired yet? Do you wish to get involved?

It takes a village to see through change. If all goes well, I would have been part of a journey that changed the lives of 137 youth in just 8 weeks of working with the NGO.

Reach out to me if you want to be part of this revolution. Help (time/ money) is ALWAYS appreciated. It may also give you an opportunity to explore the beautiful country of Kenya!