Ladies at a tailoring shop.

DCA creating ‘cool jobs’ through skills development and mentorship.

The project is an innovative blend of job creation, enrichment of skills and career guidance to navigate the murky terrain of job search, and is being

© Ferguson Olemarampa

Kenya’s Youth Employment Challenge

The Youth unemployment rate in Africa is extremely high, with some countries averaging between 70 – 80% rates. In Kenya the rate is at 17.3%, with the number of unemployed youths being 1.4 million as at 2024. Some of the factors exacerbating this are lack of experience, education-job mismatch and rise in population. Thousands of youths graduate every year, making job demands increase because of scarcity.

It is against this background that DanChurchAid (DCA) in consortium with QUERCUS group, ADS-North Rift (ADS-NR), Growth Africa, and the College of Career Guidance and Development (CCGD) is implementing a job creation and skills development project for youth dubbed Ajira Poa! – which translates to ‘cool jobs’ in Swahili. The project is an innovative blend of job creation, enrichment of skills and career guidance to navigate the murky terrain of job search, and is being implemented in Nakuru, Nyandarua, and West Pokot counties.

Supporting youths to stitch their future.

Traversing a hilly and meandering terrain of West Pokot County, I make a stop at Chepararia, Morpus apprentice workshop/training centre. It is mid-morning, and everyone is busy, seated at sewing machines. I notice one young lady moving from one sewing station to the next. Soon I realised that she is the instructor/teacher mentoring the other apprentices. As she rose to welcome me, the apprentices are interrupted, and all looked up with faces beaming with smiles.

Like many other youths in West Pokot, Janet Cheboisho heard about the project from their area Chief. Our partner ADS-NR engages multiple stakeholders such as county governments youth directorates, chiefs, and church leaders to effectively disseminate the information calling on the youth to apply. After completing secondary education, Janet joined a vocational centre where she acquired tailoring skills. She applied and was successfully recruited to the project. In the workshops and comprehensive trainings, Janet gained from career counselling offered by our partner CCGD.

Sewing is an art…

After the trainings Janet embarked on a journey to help her fellow peers in the community by renting a small space where she trains them how to stich and sew. Youth who had finished or dropped out of school – and had interest in tailoring – joined her and started stitching and mending.

As Emily Chepchumba, one of Janet’s students says, “we started with basic things like interacting and getting used to the sewing machines and how to pedal. Afterwards, we developed sewing patterns and started stitching shapes. Sewing is an art, and you really must like it first.”

After practising for three months, the apprentices are good enough to offer important tailoring services in the village like stitching torn clothes and making uniforms and clothes for their village mates. The apprentices are now busy and productive and have understood their abilities. They can put food on the table and buy other equipment from their earnings. Since they have rented the sewing machines they are using, they are saving up to purchase their own machines and rely on themselves. They are looking forward to big opportunities like tailoring uniforms in Chepararia, and wedding dresses.

Injecting entrepreneurial and business skills

A few kilometres from Chepararia, Thomas Pkemoi is attending a patient at his pharmacy in Centre Kwanza. The patient complained of headache and throat soreness. Thomas takes a blood sample and administers painkillers as they await the results. I joined him in the lab where he took me through his life before the project.

I finished my diploma in nursing course from Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) in 2021 and got employed at an hospital in Kapenguria, West Pokot County as an intern assisting the owner. I worked there for two years then I heard about Ajira Poa project.
Thomas Pkemoi

When Thomas applied and got recruited in the project, he attended workshops where he chose work readiness pathway – one of the pathway selections for the youth in the project. Work readiness pathway is designed for youth entering the job market or actively seeking employment and focuses on equipping them with the necessary skills and confidence to thrive in a competitive environment. Additionally, Thomas benefitted from skills such as business planning, financial management, marketing, and sales, providing a solid foundation for starting and managing a venture. The entrepreneurship training included mentorship and networking opportunities.

I looked at the problems that we suffer in my area from a medical perspective and saw an opportunity to solve them and be my own boss.
Thomas Pkemoi

Centre Kwanza, where Thomas comes from, is a small shopping centre located approximately ten kilometres from Chepararia – a bigger shopping centre in the area. The place is remote, and locals could only get medical services by travelling to hospitals in Kapenguria or Makutano. Thomas decided to step in and opened a pharmacy complete with drugs and equipment. The locals had no medical knowledge and would always buy painkillers from shops without getting prescriptions. They had always relied on herbs, which sometimes could prove to be unresponsive.

Since Thomas started the clinic, he started by educating pupils in schools and the public about hygiene, which he says was the cause of many ailments. So far, he has treated diseases like malaria and pneumonia. He has also attended to minor injuries and has referred some patients to bigger hospitals.

Even though I had only intended to help my community, this has turned out to be a good venture and my source of income. I intend to expand the services in future to include maternity and partner with doctors to bring medical camps to my village for awareness and check-ups.
Thomas Pkemoi

Indefatigable attitude

Tireless and relentless best describes the persistence of Shirleen Cheptum Florence in her life. Shirleen developed an eye infection during her secondary school days. When she was in form two, she lost her eyesight and became totally blind, forcing her to drop out of school in 2015. She underwent treatment between 2016 and 2017 and when she regained her eyesight, she went back to school to continue her education from form two. However, when she was in the final year of secondary school in 2019, misfortune struck again, and she could barely see. This did not stop her from doing her final exams, scoring a mean grade of D+.

Immediately after exams, she got worse and for the second time lost her eyesight. She sought medication from various hospitals but when Covid-19 struck in 2020, her problems were compounded. As travel restrictions were imposed, she could not travel to bigger hospitals around the country. This left her to rely on herbs and occasional check-ups in a nearby health centre. By a miracle, in early 2021, she regained her full eyesight.

I just woke up in the middle of the night and was surprised that I could see. The same year my brother supported me to join a vocational institute to pursue skills training in hairdressing and beauty therapy. I worked hard and graduated in December 2022 with Grade 3 certificate.
Shirleen Cheptum Florence

Enters Ajira Poa! project

In early 2023, Shirleen applied and was successfully onboarded in the Ajira Poa! project. In the workshops, together with others she was taken through digital literacy, life skills, career guidance, encouragement, and inspirations. To top it off, under the project, she applied and was awarded a 2-semester scholarship to continue with her certificate course. Shirleen completed and graduated with first class in hairdressing and beauty therapy and awarded with Grade 2 certificate by the National Industrial Training Authority. The same month, August 2023, Shirleen was employed as a trainer at St. Joseph’s the Worker Vocational and Training Centre. She teaches life skills, communication, hairdressing, and beauty therapy. In January 2024, her Grade 3 class had 11 students.

“My students are very motivated by my life journey, and they truly understand that there are no barriers in life. I enjoy teaching communication and life skills subjects the most.”
Shirleen Cheptum Florence

Shirleen earns an income from her job and she can now afford a decent life for herself, pay for her routine medical check-ups, and support her family.

DCA Kenya

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