Youth in Eritrea gain skills to unlock employment opportunities
Woodwork has long been considered a man’s job in Eritrea. But Tsega Teklemenot, a trainer at the Keren Centre for youth skills development, is living proof that women can also thrive in this field.
“Most ladies prefer to work as waitresses and make quick money, but I hope that they will realize that time spent in training actually pays off once you start working,” she says.
- UNDP-backed vocational training helps young people develop work skills and open up employment opportunities.
- In 2016, more than 1,060 youth graduated from the programme, close to 40% of them women.
- Nearly 65% of participants have secured permanent jobs.
Eritrea faces wide scale youth unemployment, pushing many young people to brave their chances and migrate in search of better opportunities. To address these issues, a project by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS), with financial support from Norway, Japan and UNDP, is providing youth with vocational skills and training to help them find jobs.
The trainings take six months and range from graphic design to metalwork, woodwork, beekeeping, hairdressing, pottery and electric installation. The trainings take place through all six regions of Eritrea. Candidate selection takes into account gender balance, youth from female-headed households, youth who have been demobilized from military service, internally displaced people and youth who have special needs.
Tsega Mekonen, who is 22, chairs the Association of the Deaf in Anseba. For her the training provides renewed hope for the future – especially for people with disabilities. Out of the 21 trainees in her pottery class, 10 are deaf. Tsega is thrilled to start teaching pottery classes after her training so that more association members can benefit from the initiative.
“There are many young [disabled] people who have no jobs. I see this as an opportunity to learn a new skill, so the members of our organization can be empowered,” she says.
At the metal and wood workshop in Keren, 18-year-old Daniel Kitre has just completed his six-month training in metalwork. He says the training exceeded his expectations and is confident that his newly acquired skills will enable him to have his own workshop afterwards.
“I would recommend this training for my friends who are looking for jobs,” he says.
In 2016, more than 1,000 youth graduated from the programme; 38% of them are women, and 63% of these youth have found a permanent job.
Bierhane Teare, a former woodwork trainee who also became a trainer for the project, is grateful for the regular income.
“I would have loved to start my own business but I didn’t have the capital. I am glad to be using my skills to teach others,” he says. He adds that most of the furniture built at the workshop has been sold and that there is adequate demand for their products.
One of the challenges facing the project is the limited space, as the centres can only admit 50 people at a time. Recently, the training centres have been expanded to admit more trainees, and they also offer a revised curriculum, modern equipment and updated training manuals.
The project has also created a platform for dialogue on youth and migration issues, and provides start-up financing for young people with potential. This includes those voluntarily repatriating from the diaspora and those residing in the country