Generation Jobless: How Impact Enterprises Works to Reduce the Skills Gap

Youth unemployment has become a growing problem worldwide, both in developed and developing countries. As the world’s youth population continues to grow in size, there simply aren’t enough jobs to employ them. This led The Economist to dub today’s youth “Generation Jobless.”

According to the United Nations, nearly 3.5 billion people globally are under the age of 27.  One-third are between the ages 15 and 24, of which 600 million are either unemployed, work in the informal sector, or earn less than $2 a day. This means that unemployment for youths is three times higher than for adults.

To make matters worse, the world is facing a huge skills gap. Those leaving school are finding they still lack the skills required by employers. This may be a matter of not having the soft skills to be prepared for the workplace or aren’t being educated in sectors where job creation is happening, such as technology.

This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where, although literacy rates and school enrollment have increased over the years, many of the schooling systems still promote “rote learning.” This means students are taught to pass exams instead of gain real world workplace skills.

A recent report by JA Worldwide titled Generation Jobless gives five suggestions for helping the youth find employment. These include:

  1. Boost job creation and labor demand
  2. Better prepare young people for the job market
  3. Increase access to career counseling
  4. Improve current and long-term financial literacy
  5. Foster entrepreneurship

This is an undertaking requiring the commitment of governments, employers, educational institutions, civil society organizations, and financial institutions. All these stakeholders play a part in contributing to fighting unemployment.

Here at Impact Enterprises, we’ve taken the initiative to create a solution to this huge problem in Zambia, where the problem is as acute as anywhere. Our mission to create valuable employment for high school and college graduates means we’re not only providing jobs, but also addressing the skills gap that exists in today’s workforce head-on.

For the majority of our employees, working at Impact Enterprises is their first formal job. Through weekly workshops, we teach the soft skills necessary in the workplace to our employees, such as problem solving, creative thinking, teamwork, and communication. We also provide information on life skills such as savings and goal setting. This means that, beyond the hands-on technical skills they gain on the job, they are now better prepared to compete in the digital economy.

We are also engaging stakeholders domestically and abroad to promote job creation here in Zambia. Fostering an active, mutual dialogue about this global issue ensures that everyone is focused on the future. In Zambia, where development and entrepreneurship has been slow, these partnerships are only taking root. But over the last 2 years, we have seen that so many partners, from the universities to foreign embassies to local startup scenes, are committed to changing the prospects of this generation.

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Female employees of Impact Enterprises

Our Young Female Entrepreneurs Are the Future of Zambia

A New Focus on Female Entrepreneurship

Sub-Saharan Africa boasts some of the highest rates of female entrepreneurial activity in the world. Here, on average 27% of the female population are involved in entrepreneurship, according to a 2012 study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

What sounds like a success story is actually the result of widespread economic dysfunction. In developing countries, the lack of formal sector jobs is forcing people into entrepreneurial ventures for income generation.

The world is starting to take notice. With self-reliance being touted as the economic driver of change in the region, women in particular play an important role in economic growth. In Obama’s recent visit to Kenya he brought attention to the issue of female entrepreneurship by saying, “If half your team is not playing then you have a problem. In many countries half the team is women and youth.”

There still remain large challenges to women’s involvement in business. While female entrepreneurship is growing, there are still significant barriers that women face. Beyond just the legal and financial barriers that exist in developing countries, many women lack the confidence to begin a start-up business.

Feel Confident They Can Start A Business

image1

Source: 2012 report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

In the 2015 Female Entrepreneurship Index, Zambia ranked 64th out of the 77 countries surveyed. To address the inequity, the United States has launched WECREATE centers in 5 countries, including Zambia, which aim to connect female entrepreneurs with local resources.

Our Impact on our Female Employees

In June, Impact Enterprises launched a weekly workshop series for its female employees, which they have named Ladies of Victory and Encouragement (LOVE). As Nelicy and Dinah, two of the group leaders, explained, “We want this to be a space where we can share our ideas and learn from one another. Building our communication skills is really important.” The workshops will cover topics ranging from entrepreneurship and career advice to self-esteem, gender equality, and being a better person.

Group leader Mary presents her team's thoughts in the leadership deabates

Group leader Mary presents her team’s thoughts in the leadership debate

After the first month, the girls were given an assignment to put their newfound confidence to the test: they were to participate in the upcoming companywide debate workshop without being prompted. The room reacted nervous laughs and hesitation. Nevertheless, several of the women stepped up to the challenge the following week.

In the following session, the women shared their feelings. Cecilia, one of the team leaders, stated she felt she was more capable of expressing herself in large groups now because of the group. Another said she was trying to work on improving her own self-esteem, which she was encouraged to do by the group. Debra stated that she felt the group brought back the energy she used to have in secondary school.

This month, the women delve into the basics of entrepreneurship and risk. Several already have visions for their own businesses, such as Mary who wants to open a bakery or Violet who already sells clothes and accessories. They will discuss what’s preventing them from achieving their goals and how to have the right attitude to tolerate risk.

The LOVE workshops will teach our female employees skills that are invaluable to entrepreneurship and have them overcome the psychological barriers many of them face. By tackling the challenges together, they encourage each other through the process.

Female employees of Impact Enterprises

Our Young Female Entrepreneurs Are the Future of Zambia

A New Focus on Female Entrepreneurship

Sub-Saharan Africa boasts some of the highest rates of female entrepreneurial activity in the world. Here, on average 27% of the female population are involved in entrepreneurship, according to a 2012 study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

What sounds like a success story is actually the result of widespread economic dysfunction. In developing countries, the lack of formal sector jobs is forcing people into entrepreneurial ventures for income generation.

The world is starting to take notice. With self-reliance being touted as the economic driver of change in the region, women in particular play an important role in economic growth. In Obama’s recent visit to Kenya he brought attention to the issue of female entrepreneurship by saying, “If half your team is not playing then you have a problem. In many countries half the team is women and youth.”

There still remain large challenges to women’s involvement in business. While female entrepreneurship is growing, there are still significant barriers that women face. Beyond just the legal and financial barriers that exist in developing countries, many women lack the confidence to begin a start-up business.

Feel Confident They Can Start A Business

image1

Source: 2012 report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

In the 2015 Female Entrepreneurship Index, Zambia ranked 64th out of the 77 countries surveyed. To address the inequity, the United States has launched WECREATE centers in 5 countries, including Zambia, which aim to connect female entrepreneurs with local resources.

Our Impact on our Female Employees

In June, Impact Enterprises launched a weekly workshop series for its female employees, which they have named Ladies of Victory and Encouragement (LOVE). As Nelicy and Dinah, two of the group leaders, explained, “We want this to be a space where we can share our ideas and learn from one another. Building our communication skills is really important.” The workshops will cover topics ranging from entrepreneurship and career advice to self-esteem, gender equality, and being a better person.

Group leader Mary presents her team's thoughts in the leadership deabates

Group leader Mary presents her team’s thoughts in the leadership debate

After the first month, the girls were given an assignment to put their newfound confidence to the test: they were to participate in the upcoming companywide debate workshop without being prompted. The room reacted nervous laughs and hesitation. Nevertheless, several of the women stepped up to the challenge the following week.

In the following session, the women shared their feelings. Cecilia, one of the team leaders, stated she felt she was more capable of expressing herself in large groups now because of the group. Another said she was trying to work on improving her own self-esteem, which she was encouraged to do by the group. Debra stated that she felt the group brought back the energy she used to have in secondary school.

This month, the women delve into the basics of entrepreneurship and risk. Several already have visions for their own businesses, such as Mary who wants to open a bakery or Violet who already sells clothes and accessories. They will discuss what’s preventing them from achieving their goals and how to have the right attitude to tolerate risk.

The LOVE workshops will teach our female employees skills that are invaluable to entrepreneurship and have them overcome the psychological barriers many of them face. By tackling the challenges together, they encourage each other through the process.

Generation Jobless: How Impact Enterprises Works to Reduce the Skills Gap

Youth unemployment has become a growing problem worldwide, both in developed and developing countries. As the world’s youth population continues to grow in size, there simply aren’t enough jobs to employ them. This led The Economist to dub today’s youth “Generation Jobless.”

According to the United Nations, nearly 3.5 billion people globally are under the age of 27.  One-third are between the ages 15 and 24, of which 600 million are either unemployed, work in the informal sector, or earn less than $2 a day. This means that unemployment for youths is three times higher than for adults.

To make matters worse, the world is facing a huge skills gap. Those leaving school are finding they still lack the skills required by employers. This may be a matter of not having the soft skills to be prepared for the workplace or aren’t being educated in sectors where job creation is happening, such as technology.

This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where, although literacy rates and school enrollment have increased over the years, many of the schooling systems still promote “rote learning.” This means students are taught to pass exams instead of gain real world workplace skills.

A recent report by JA Worldwide titled Generation Jobless gives five suggestions for helping the youth find employment. These include:

  1. Boost job creation and labor demand
  2. Better prepare young people for the job market
  3. Increase access to career counseling
  4. Improve current and long-term financial literacy
  5. Foster entrepreneurship

This is an undertaking requiring the commitment of governments, employers, educational institutions, civil society organizations, and financial institutions. All these stakeholders play a part in contributing to fighting unemployment.

Here at Impact Enterprises, we’ve taken the initiative to create a solution to this huge problem in Zambia, where the problem is as acute as anywhere. Our mission to create valuable employment for high school and college graduates means we’re not only providing jobs, but also addressing the skills gap that exists in today’s workforce head-on.

For the majority of our employees, working at Impact Enterprises is their first formal job. Through weekly workshops, we teach the soft skills necessary in the workplace to our employees, such as problem solving, creative thinking, teamwork, and communication. We also provide information on life skills such as savings and goal setting. This means that, beyond the hands-on technical skills they gain on the job, they are now better prepared to compete in the digital economy.

We are also engaging stakeholders domestically and abroad to promote job creation here in Zambia. Fostering an active, mutual dialogue about this global issue ensures that everyone is focused on the future. In Zambia, where development and entrepreneurship has been slow, these partnerships are only taking root. But over the last 2 years, we have seen that so many partners, from the universities to foreign embassies to local startup scenes, are committed to changing the prospects of this generation.