Our holistic approach with emphasis on service quality and long perspective mentor support changes attitudes and counters youth unemployment.
After 2 years of operation Potentiam Youth Centre can finally claim that the concept has been tried and tested with excellent results. Ignoring the road of least resistance the centre took the daunting task of changing attitudes and the mindset of disadvantaged youth to make them more employable. The initial assessment study suggested that part of the unemployment problem was the poor attitudes of the young people that discouraged a lot of employees.
The Centre has to date graduated 147 youth that have undergone training in Basic ICT, English and Literacy and the Core Course in Applied Business Skills. There was a 92% graduation rate for the Core course and of those who graduated, 73% were able to find employment within the first 3 months of finishing the course and 82% were employed by the 6th month. These are impressive statistics that have not been registered by any youth development programme in Uganda so far.
Half of the students had more than doubled their income compared to what they earned before taking the course. 55% of the employment is in the informal sector, 18% in the formal sector, 18% in both formal and informal sectors combined and 9% are unemployed. The salary scale of these graduates ranges from USD 25 a month up to USD 365 per month. Out of the total graduated students from the first core course, 80% of the incomes are regular with only two students fluctuating depending on the number of jobs and season of a given month.
The training we provide is not unique to the centre. There are several other youth development programmes providing the same sort of training. However, the centre’s success is rooted in its holistic approach and the quality of service provided. Albeit still small and growing, it allows the centre the flexibility to review the curriculum often with input from the students so there is constant improvement. The support system provided by the staff, the mentors and the community is unrivalled as supportive relationships are the back bone to the success of any community programme.
The activities at the centre are designed to enhance confidence and promote independent and analytical thinking. The personal development classes prepares the students for the employment market. In the core course of the class the students get to know themselves, gain value and worthiness and develops a sense of belonging to the centre and the community. This is important since most of the students come from troubled backgrounds. The students are followed up by mentors for six months during the course, and then for 18 months after graduation and into their professional lives. We are interested in knowing how the students fare in their carriers and to fix the problem if they are struggling.
The centre has invested highly in quality staff that is motivated and hired not just because they are skilled but also for their passion for the work they do. The staff undergoes constant capacity building to improve their teaching skills especially working with disadvantaged youth who need a little extra help. Investing in people for long term impact is our model of sustainability and as long as the centre continues to innovate and think outside the box, it will continue putting a dent in the youth unemployment statistics.