CityPress - - News - Job cre­ation is the buzz phrase across all sec­tors of South African so­ci­ety, but draw­ing un­der­served youth into the for­mal econ­omy is a global prob­lem. ex­plores how a west African so­cial en­ter­prise is find­ing a so­lu­tion

God­win Udobassey is one of the 435 peo­ple to date who have ben­e­fited from West Africa Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion (Wave), a pi­o­neer­ing so­cial en­ter­prise. Udobassey was do­ing ca­sual work for a se­cu­rity com­pany when he ap­plied to Wave be­cause he wanted to ac­quire more skills and get a steady job. Three weeks af­ter grad­u­a­tion from the pro­gramme, Udobassey got a job with the Orchid Bistro Restau­rant as a waiter.

“The sys­tems think­ing I learnt from Wave has helped me to dis­cover er­rors in my work­place be­fore any­one else within my depart­ment,” he said.

More than 40 mil­lion west African youth are chron­i­cally dis­con­nected from the for­mal econ­omy be­cause they lack aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions, skills and ex­pe­ri­ence. Wave gets th­ese youth ready for work through skills train­ing and gives them ac­cess to ap­pro­pri­ate en­try-level jobs. Of the young peo­ple Wave has trained, 70% have been placed in en­try-level jobs that have dou­bled or tripled their in­comes.

Wave was founded in 2013 by Misan Re­wane, a grad­u­ate in eco­nom­ics from Stan­ford Univer­sity in the US, fol­low­ing a dis­cus­sion with col­leagues at the Har­vard Busi­ness School about the high rate of un­em­ploy­ment in Africa.

“It is a vo­ca­tional train­ing plat­form that aims to em­power mil­lions of dis­ad­van­taged west African youth with em­ploy­able skills that trans­form their mind-sets and pro­vide em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties that en­hance their so­cial mo­bil­ity through vo­ca­tional train­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Re­wane, Wave pro­vides self-mo­ti­vated youth with skills em­ploy­ers want, teaches them how to stand out pro­fes­sion­ally by in­cul­cat­ing a mind-set of con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment, and places them in paid tech­ni­cal ap­pren­tice­ships in high-growth in­dus­tries where they earn while they learn.

“We iden­tify, train and place tal­ented, un­der­served youth in en­try-level jobs in high-growth in­dus­tries [such as the re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tors] that dou­ble their in­come.

“We screen job seek­ers for in­nate tal­ent such as emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, and pro­vide train­ing in in­dus­try-rel­e­vant em­ploy­able skills such as prob­lem-solv­ing and cus­tomer re­la­tions. Mak­ing a match is a win for our trainees and em­ployer part­ners.”

Wave’s three-week train­ing pro­gramme of­fers a com­bi­na­tion of hands-on tasks, case stud­ies and sim­u­la­tions.

“The classes were fun, my team mates were awe­some, and I learnt so many things that I did not have the op­por­tu­nity to learn in four years at univer­sity,” said Temiloluwa Abi­ola, a Wave alum­nus.

“Our train­ers did not mind re­peat­ing them­selves just for one per­son to grasp the point. They were re­lent­less in help­ing us to un­der­stand the les­sons.”

By em­pow­er­ing th­ese youth, Wave seeks to en­hance their so­cial mo­bil­ity and spark a change in cul­tural mind-set that strives for pro­fes­sional ex­cel­lence, which could catal­yse the re­gion’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Wave’s screen, train, place model could po­ten­tially be repli­cated be­yond west Africa to reach and con­nect mil­lions of young peo­ple to jobs.

Wave’s tar­get group is the tra­di­tion­ally ex­cluded pop­u­la­tions: 18- to 35-year-olds with­out a univer­sity de­gree liv­ing on less than R30 a day. It fo­cuses on harder-to-teach soft skills and chang­ing in­dus­try be­hav­iour by pro­mot­ing a “hire for at­ti­tude, train for skill ap­proach”.

Hope Mari, an­other ben­e­fi­ciary of Wave’s train­ing, said she learnt a lot about team­work, which has helped her at work.

“It has changed my ori­en­ta­tion com­pletely. Be­fore I joined Wave, I used to hate any­thing that had to do with joint work. I would rather do my own part and leave the rest. But with what I have learnt at Wave, I can say I now see the need for team­work and have a greater un­der­stand­ing of it.”

To ac­com­plish what it set out to do, Wave hopes to build a model that can be repli­cated to screen, train and pro­vide mil­lions of marginalised youth with ac­cess to en­try-level jobs, and com­bine and lever­age “our di­rect pro­gram­matic ex­pe­ri­ence with pol­icy ad­vo­cacy to change the ed­u­ca­tion-to-work sys­tem more broadly”. City Press is the South African part­ner for Im­pact Jour­nal­ism Day. Find more sto­ries from around the globe on­line at and in the rest of the news­pa­per

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PAR­A­DIGM SHIFT Wave is mak­ing it pos­si­ble for more young peo­ple to en­ter the for­mal econ­omy

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