Bridging the School to Work Transition Gap
When I was in senior six vacation (which feels like decades ago), I worked at my sister’s shop. She owned a Warid Franchise shop. For about six months, I made sure I was at work by 8AM, I sold mobile devices, airtime and SIM cards, I counted and banked the money we made, did inventory, balanced the books to ensure we didn’t have any losses, or account for them when we did, and met to customers’ needs.
At the time, this felt like a simple thing. I had time, and a job was a good way to spend this time. The money was a welcome bonus, and the fact that I don’t remember how much I earned but that I had enough money shows that the economy has greatly changed since then.
I did it, and didn’t think anything of it. Life went on, as it always does.
Only it wasn’t nothing. For over 3 years, I worked in the advertising and communication industry as an account management professional (which is fancy speak for client relations manager), and in all the 3 organizations I worked with, one of the clients I handled was a telecommunications company.
I didn’t major in advertising and communication at university, but I managed to make a career out of it. This was possible because of a number of factors.
My sister was successful, and even without knowing it, she inspired me to be a hard worker, to be principled, to set goals and make steps to achieve them. She was my mentor.
My early interaction with a work place environment prepared me for the school to work transition, equipped me with interpersonal, communication, and customer relations skills, among others (which is fancy speak for I could sell ideas, and products, engage with clients, and give them what they wanted/needed and generally behave in a professional manner).
Ergo it is no surprise that when I got the chance, I joined the Boundless Minds team. The Boundless Minds Leadership Corp, a 9 week training and mentorship program for senior six graduates, uses a 3 way model (training, organization placement and community service), to support their personal and career development.
This is very important, because my story is NOT the norm. According to UNEB, about 100,000 candidates sit UACE but only about 50,000 join university. Those who drop out join unemployment, but even many of those who stay get university qualifications and end up without employment – sometimes because of lack of experience and skills like problem solving, critical thinking, and work ethic among others.
This year’s cohort started in March with a 6 day training, and the corps are now preparing for their community service projects. From this training, they can now write emails professionally, with appropriate subjects, and language, and formal letters like introduction, application and fundraising letters. They wrote the concept notes for their individual projects, drew up budgets and fundraising plans as well, which will enable them execute the projects.
It’s obvious where training and organization placement fit into this approach to bridging the school to work transition, and solving our unemployment problem, community service not so much. It’s not enough to raise a generation that is employable, it is important that these young people can look beyond themselves, recognize the issues in their communities and find viable and sustainable solutions to fix these issues. In showing them how to care for their communities, we are showing them how to be leaders in their communities, in their own small way – whatever way that is.
The corps have 1 month left to finish the program; it might seem like nothing, and they might join a university or tertiary institution shortly after, and go on with their lives; but this will leave a mark on their lives. And they will be better for it.