The narrative of unemployment and slow job creation in Africa often dominates the dialog around youth. However, an important component of the youth narrative is the skills gap. For the jobs that do exist in the economy, young people are often unprepared to access them or fill them. Our youth are graduating from schools with excellent academic credentials and poor skills preparedness. Bridging the gap between what the job market is looking for and what young people possess is an important part of our work. We do this primarily through job shadows and leadership camps.
Job Shadows offer students a unique opportunity: a visit to a professional work environment and insights into how to find and keep a fulfilling career. Students participating in the program acquire and apply the skills needed in demanding and ever-changing workplaces. Students are able to recognize career clusters and potential job positions; understand the importance of researching the requirements needed to earn a position; and develop job-hunting tools, such as networking, CV-writing, and interviewing skills.
Job Shadow Programs are interpreted in different forms in different countries. In Zimbabwe, JA implements a program called ‘Take 10,000 girls to Work,’ which matches young girls with professionals in their fields of interest to help them gain an exposure into the workplace and the details of careers they are interested in. Girls spend the day with CEOs, administrators, lawyers, bankers, bakers, entrepreneurs, etc. In Zambia, JA’s ‘First Lady for a Day’ program brings rural girls to spend the day with the First Lady of the country and her network of female friends who mentor and advise the girls about their futures.
Globally, girls perform academically at par with boys and often even out-perform them in school. But when it comes to leadership during their careers women fall behind. This phenomenon is manifested consistently in many parts of the world, and especially in Africa where the C-suites are often devoid of female leaders.
JA Africa runs leadership camps for girls annually, bringing together girls with female professionals at the top of their companies to exchange knowledge and learning. Leadership Camps target young women before they enter the workforce, while they are making decisions about their careers in order to build their interests and ambition before society convinces them to alter their options and ambitions.
This program pulls together girls from the ages of 14-19 to help them develop their life plans; learning important lessons on a variety of subjects including health, wealth, family, professionalism, etc. During a three-day period girls are coached by accomplished professional women from influential companies. They begin to think about what kinds of jobs they aspire to have and what it takes to get there, the explore how many children they want to have, what kinds of schools they want their children to go to and the affordability of their lifestyles including school fees, health insurance and vacations. They begin to understand the implications of all their life decisions.
Different modules take girls through different aspects of their lives that are components of success, like the importance of physical education and finding the balance between personal appearance and substance. ‘The magic in you’ helps them understand and optimize their personal gifts as well as overcome the limitations of their personal backgrounds, whether they be from poor backgrounds, broken families, low academic performance, etc. They learn etiquette, self-awareness, how to navigate difficult professional crossroads, finding the courage to make bold decisions in the workplace, build financial resilience, manage peer pressure, speak publicly.