Vocational Training Increases Employability Opportunities For Young South Sudanese
July 14, 2022
Unemployment in South Sudan is estimated at 11 percent of the population while youth unemployment is estimated at 50 percent, and it continues to rise.
Youth unemployment is exacerbated by low levels of education, limited skills, and a weak economy. Additionally, increased reliance on imported skilled labour from neighbouring countries, further entrenches the problem of unemployment amongst the South Sudanese youth who constitute about 73% of the country’s population.
Destitution, lack of skills and economic empowerment opportunities among young people in South Sudan are some of the triggers of conflict, as they make young people targets for recruitment by armed groups and gangs. Therefore, skilling and empowering youth is fundamentally critical to sustaining peace, stability and sustainable development in South Sudan.
Besides lack of skills, South Sudan has one of the lowest literacy levels globally. According to UNESCO Institute of Statistics, in 2018, the literacy levels stood at only 34.5 percent of the population aged 15 years and above with 40.3 percent and 28.9 percent male and female respectively able to read and write. Vocational training therefore provides an alternative, pathway for young South Sudanese to acquire skills and competencies that makes them more responsive to the increasing demand for a skilled work force in the emerging job opportunities such as hospitality and construction.
Graduate dreams big after vocational training
Isaac Wani, 29 years, a graduate of Procurement and Logistics enrolled for vocational training in Bakery and Pastry after losing his job and finding it difficult to look after his wife and child. He did his internship at Jebel Lodge Hotel, Juba, South Sudan where he was subsequently offered a job as a Chef.
“I now can take care of my family, pay my house rent, support my daughter and my extended family. So, I am really happy,” recounts Wani who has plans of establishing a bakery and appreciates UNDP, Government, MTC and partners for the support. He adds: “What they have done for us is more than giving fish to a person; it’s teaching us how to fish. The training was free of charge. There was no amount of money that we were asked to pay.”
As a university graduate, Wani says that it wasn’t easy for him to enroll for a vocational course: “But I was persuaded by the practical and hands-on training compared to the university education which was more theoretical. It was also an opportunity for me to expand and diversify my skills.” Given, his plans of starting a bakery, he says all the skills he has acquired will come in handy in running his business.
UNDP’s Skills for Youth Employability and Social Inclusion project is designed to enhance youth employability through provision of demand-driven vocational skills, internship and job placement opportunities. Since its inception in July 2020, the project has provided career guidance, counselling and placement services to about 1,000 graduates and deployed 742 graduates for internship and employment with government, the private sector, CSOs and international development organizations.
Ayuen is now self-reliant
Yet Isaac is not alone. Ayuen Kuol Athuai, trained in Bakery and Pastry and currently works as a Cashier and Waitress at House of Josman, in Juba, South Sudan where she was retained and given a job after her internship. “At least now I am able to help my family members at home, my siblings and to meet my personal needs. I don’t need to ask for them from anyone.”
Ayuen, who completed senior four but couldn’t continue because of lack of school fees, says her training and internship were both practical: “I learnt how to make pizzas, cakes, burgers and to use equipment like ovens, blenders and microwaves.”
During the internship, she served at executive functions, handled cash and payments which improved her confidence and prepared her for the world of work.
Funded by the African Development Bank, the project targets vulnerable populations such as women, ex-combatants and persons with disabilities. The project’s first cohort comprised of 572 (of whom 194 were female.) Out of these, 449 (170 female) graduated in September 2021 after passing the standardized skills assessment. This involved training in Electrical Installation, Solar Installation, Plumbing and Pipefitting, Hospitality, Bakery and Pastry, Hairdressing, Beauty Therapy, Customer Care and Painting. 628 youth (265 female) out of the second cohort of 814 (369 female) trainees graduated in June 2022, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to 1,077 (435 female).
Graduates of both cohorts were taken through career guidance and job readiness sessions and channeled to internship placement and apprenticeship opportunities. Some 127 private sector companies have been engaged to facilitate internship placement.
The skills trainings in various trades and post-training support services are obtainable at the Juba Multi-Service Training Centre (MTC) under the Ministry of Labour.
School dropout ventures into self-employment
Angelo Safri Ceasar, who stopped schooling in Primary Eight and couldn’t continue because he lacked school fees, is now a proud owner of the Celebrity Hood Salon, Juba which he started thanks to the skills acquired during the Hairdressing training. He employs two other youth, and the salon specializes in plaiting hair and making dreadlocks.
Before the training, Angelo had tried different casual jobs including riding a boda boda to support his parents and siblings. From his daily take-home of between SSP 10,000 and SSP 15,000 (USD 21 and USD 33), he is able to support his family and has plans of opening other branches and also venturing into other businesses. “I am happy to be working on my own,” he says, adding, “I don’t have a family or my own children, but I help my father, mother and siblings, especially on school fees.”
Expansion of vocational training
In response to an increasing demand for safe and affordable means of transportation, a new study discipline of Motorbike Riding (boda boda) has been introduced at the Juba Multi-Service Training Centre effective May 2022. UNDP recently donated two motorcycles to aid in the training.
Ms. Mary Hillary Wani Pitia, the Undersecretary, Ministry of Labour, appreciated the UNDP for the support, saying the new course will improve road safety and reduce accidents.
“As a means of livelihood, many youths are riding boda bodas but we have also witnessed a lot of accidents because the youths are not well trained in the use of boda bodas. So, the training and skills acquired will help the youth to avoid unnecessary accidents, enhance road safety and save lives.”
In the coming years, the project will consolidate and expand on the gains already made in turning around the issue of skills and youth employability and making young people market ready through acquisition of new and relevant skills.