Empowering youth in Kenya with market-driven digital skills

The ILO and Learning Lions are bridging the digital divide in remote areas by providing comprehensive digital skills training, mentorship and job opportunities to young people. This innovative programme is transforming the lives of vulnerable communities, including refugees, and paving the way for an inclusive digital economy in Kenya.

Nairobi, KENYA (ILO News) – The digital economy is rapidly transforming the job landscape worldwide, especially for youth. Kenya being at the forefront of embracing the digital transformation has already adopted the Digital Economy Blueprint  in 2019. The country aims to harness digital technologies, infrastructure and innovation-driven entrepreneurship, including the development of digital skills and to create decent job opportunities.

ILO and the learning lab initiative to strengthen inclusive digital economy

The ILO, through the Government of the Netherlands supported PROSPECTS Opportunity Fund is implementing an activity – “A digital revolution for young refugees and youth in host communities in Kenya” to support Kenyan government’s vision by facilitating dialogue among key stakeholders, building their capacity with policy oriented research and through advocacy to promote a digital transformation that is more productive and inclusive of all.

“Digital skills have the potential to transform the modern labour market, but at the same time, access to digital skills education and infrastructure is a challenge in remote areas. We are therefore advocating quite strongly for policies and initiatives that enable individuals from vulnerable and marginalized communities, including refugees, to access digital technologies and acquire digital skills,” says Caroline Njuki, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO PROSPECTS Kenya.

To bolster the ongoing policy efforts led by the government and to demonstrate possible innovations to bridge the digital divide, the ILO has partnered with Learning Lions , an organization empowering youth with digital education.

“For the host and refugee communities located in remote parts of Kenya, access to digital skills and infrastructure is a challenge. Through our partnership, we aim to create a sustainable mechanism for skills development, mentorship and the establishment of an apprenticeship and job placement platform enabling youth to benefit from the emerging opportunities in the digital sector,” adds Njuki.

The ILO and Learning Lions partnership is targeting youth in the Turkana region and around the Kakuma Refugee Camp, which hosts significant proportion of the refugee population in the country. In the current phase of this partnership programme, 155 youth from the region are accessing digital skills training.

Brizan Were, Director and Co-founder of Learning Lions, explains: “By introducing a comprehensive model of training, apprenticeship and mentorship, we will ensure that young people receive market-oriented digital skills and will transition to jobs in the digital economy. Our labour market intermediation services will support digitally skilled youth to access quality jobs as per their interest and area of expertise.”

Towards an inclusive digital sector

Host and refugee community students attending the digital skill training session with learning lions ©ILO
“While attending the Mobile Leap, a peer led training programme, we learned to do basic digital work using our cell phones. I was excited to learn about how a mobile phone can be used to study, to do basic design work, even prepare our resumes and portfolios. I feel that my mobile phone can be my university or office,” says Fortunatus Kebbo, a host community student.

Out of 155 students trained by Learning Lions in Turkana, 33 come from the Kakuma Refugee Camp.

Destin Buhulukiro, a refugee student from Congo, says: “Upon completing Mobile Leap, a restaurant owner friend of mine in Kakuma saw my designs and liked them. He asked me to design his menu and to help him choose colours for his restaurant. For that he paid me KES 7,000 ($48).”

For Learning Lions, realising the value and importance of their training in improving the lives of host and refugee community youth was a newly discovered opportunity. “Our biggest and greatest hope while working with the ILO is to amplify the voices of the vulnerable, not only by sharing their stories, but also by showcasing their amazing skill set. As an organisation, we did not previously prioritise post-training efforts, particularly targeting refugees. However, with our partnership with the ILO and their connection to other partners, we now see greater opportunities for refugees and other marginalised communities,” adds Were.

The ILO and Learning Lions partnership is now advocating to scale up this model intervention with the support of ILO constituents and private sector partners in Kenya.

“This initiative not only enhances livelihoods, but also showcases the immense potential of investing in the digital skills for refugees and marginalised populations. Through such collaborative efforts, Kenya is paving the way for a more equitable and prosperous digital future for all,” added Njuki.

The comprehensive model: Skills development to jobs

Digital skills training
With technical inputs from the ILO, Learning Lions developed a curriculum aligned to the demands of the digital sector containing three stages of transition:

  • Mobile Leap: Imparting digital literacy using phone-based training

The Mobile Leap programme is a peer-led digital literacy training that introduces youth to technology while emphasising personal and professional development skills required in the digital age. This phase empowers young individuals to embrace the future of work by harnessing the power of smartphones and utilising tools and resources available on mobile devices.

  • Boot Camp: Coding or design

The boot camp transitions students from using digital applications on phones to computer-based. During this phase, students specialise in web development, graphic design or animation, while also receiving basic training in navigating the web and professional computer skills.

  • Advanced Track:

In-depth specialisation The advanced training, spanning 6-9 months, focuses on in-depth specialisation in either coding or design. Students receive personalised mentoring from industry experts and work on a set of curriculum modules that equip them with concrete and marketable skills. They learn how to deliver against client objectives, manage projects efficiently and receive feedback on the quality of their work.

Mentorship and apprenticeship
To ensure a successful transition to the digital job market, mentorship and apprenticeship programmes are integral components of the initiative. Learning Lions connects digitally-skilled youth with mentors from the industry, providing valuable guidance and support. These opportunities enable them to gain practical experience, build networks and boost their employability in the digital economy.

Decent digital jobs creation
Learning Lions links each trainee with digital labour and business process outsourcing (BPO) platforms. The opportunities students receive range from microworks at the lower end of skills development to a full-time coding contract with international companies. It ensures that students transition from skills development to acquiring a digital job.

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