Raymond Lotilem (right) with K-YES staff during a field visit.
Impact

Tapping the Potential of Kenyan Youth Through Skills Empowerment

A workforce training program that emphasizes job skills and access to financial services

Objective

To provide disenfranchised Kenyan youth (ages 18-35) the skills, assets, and support they need to compete and succeed in the workplace.

Approach

Foster partnerships between Kenyan youth, local industries, and government to enhance employment opportunities and overall youth workforce competitiveness through skills and vocational training for those who have not completed secondary education.

Impact

K-YES has connected more than 300,000 youth to finance services, relevant job and business skills and youth mentorship networks, and supported more than 50,000 youth to gain new or better employment.

One-third of Kenya’s population is between 15 and 34 years old. Many of these Kenyan youth struggle to find meaningful employment. A critical way to reduce poverty and promote stability is through job-rich economic growth that produces decent work for all.

In 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the Kenya Youth Employment and Skills (K-YES) program, led by RTI. The five-year program provides disenfranchised youth with the skills, assets, and support they need to compete and succeed in the workplace.

K-YES works with private-sector companies (including Kenya Commercial Bank and Coca-Cola), local county governments, and vocational training centers to build action-oriented, multi-stakeholder compacts that result in better education for Kenyan youth who have not completed secondary education. Students are linked to employment support services, such as apprenticeships, financial and career development services that increase their chances for formal employment or self-employment and reduce drivers of rural-urban migration.

K-YES has also been at the forefront in combating the spread of COVID-19. The program facilitated its youth beneficiaries to lead the production and dissemination of materials that help prevent the spread of the virus, including 77,000 liters of soap, 20,000 face masks, and over 300 water tanks for handwashing.

K-YES is active in nine counties: Bungoma, Garissa, Kericho, Kisii, Kwale, Migori, Nairobi, Nyeri and West Pokot.

Changing the Perception of Vocational Training

K-YES works in partnerships with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Institutions to enhance their capacity, service delivery, partnerships, and sustainability. Understanding the challenge of boosting the relevance and quality of training and improving the public image of TVETs, K-YES developed a Behavior Change Communications Strategy with the goal of demystifying negative perceptions in target counties.

The key messages promoting TVETs and blue-collar jobs has led to an increase in enrollment in training facilities. The training facilities use a nationally accredited vocational curriculum developed by K-YES in partnership with over fifty organizations that aligns with industry needs. In Bungoma, Rose Luturian, a wife, mother, and homemaker, completed a three-month competency-based training program and is now employed as a mechanic.

A female mechanic works on a car engine in Bungoma, Kenya.

Rose Luturian completed a three-month competency-based training program through K-YES and is now employed as a mechanic. Photo by Silvano Ateka/K-YES

“As a result of her passion in the trade, our facility has seen a 70 percent overall increase in enrollment and an 80 percent rise of potential female students seeking to pursue mechanics course,” said David Masinde, Rose’s mentor and mechanics instructor.

 

Women like Rose have completed similar trainings in other trades and taken roles traditionally associated with men. Catherine Wanyonyi is now the only female plumber at a construction site in Nairobi after benefiting from a K-YES sponsored competency-based training program. Catherine not only avoided the stigma often associated with school dropouts, but she avoided societal norms and created her own future.

Catherine Wanyonyi trained as a plumber through the K-YES program.

Catherine Wanyonyi is now the only female plumber at a construction site in Nairobi after benefiting from a K-YES sponsored competency-based training program. Photo by Silvano Ateka/K-YES

Investing in Youth

Kenyan youth often find that large financial institutions have measures in place that discourage them from raising capital. To help young people create or grow their business, K-YES has partnered with community-level trainers across Kenya to host training sessions on managing debt, saving, budgeting and tapping into existing financial services. The program also works with Village Savings and Loan Associations to create high saving rates and access to capital.

In early 2018, a group of young people from Chepareria, West Pokot created a joint business named Chepareria Butchers Self Group. Most members of the group dropped out of school at the elementary level and continuously faced challenges for work. Turned down by banks for their loan request, the group was forced to collect contributions from their own savings to raise capital.

Chepareria Butcheries Self-Help Group founding member and chairman Raymond Lotilem (right) with K-YES staff during a field visit.

Chepareria Butcheries Self-Help Group founding member and chairman Raymond Lotilem (right) with K-YES staff during a field visit. Photo by Silvano Ateka/K-YES

“We attended a business training in early 2018 that enlightened us on how to package and position ourselves as a profitable entity to lure financial support from banks,” said Raymond Lotilem, a founding member of the Chepareria Butchers Self Group.

The training provided by K-YES helped the group successfully apply for a loan from Kenya Commercial Bank which enabled them to expand their business. Today, they are the leading distributor of goat meat in Cherpareria and employ many youths across seven local butcheries.

This is just one story of success that portrays the results of K-YES program interventions where more than 100,000 youth have received similar trainings and more than 50,000 have obtained jobs.

Eliazar Owuor at a Ading’o group meeting for the K-YES program.

Eliazar Owuor helped start Ading’o, a group of members and K-YES community trainers who meet weekly to collaborate and review progress. Photo by Silvano Ateka/K-YES

Eliazar Owuor was also able to access a loan and change his future after completing the K-YES sponsored training. The training was the start he needed after dropping out of school and finding he was unable to pursue his interest in agribusiness due to high costs.

“I was so inspired that I swung into action,” Eliazar said during an Ading’o group meeting. Ading’o, a group Eliazar helped create, acts as a source of intellectual and financial capital for those in the community. Members and K-YES community trainers meet weekly to collaborate and review progress. Every group member has seen their business, from retail to agribusiness, grow. Inspired by the group’s success, other youth in Migori county have created their own groups structured after Ading’o.

Addressing the Drivers of Violent Extremism

K-YES program interventions are also helping to prevent youth from radicalizing. In Kwale, the proportion of youth relative to the overall population is among the highest globally. They face high rates of unemployment, a major driver of violent extremism.

K-YES partnered with key stakeholders in the county, including religious leaders and potential employers, to create a cross-sectoral approach to address the drivers of radicalism. The program hosts regular forums that include trainings on leadership and life skills to mobilize youth against involvement in violent extremism.

On a larger scale, in 2018, more than 2,000 young people participated in conversations surrounding issues affecting youth and extremism at a county-wide youth summit.

Gatherings like these offer a chance for Kenyan youth to resist the temptation to radicalize and give them opportunities to network as well as register for and acquire national ID cards. Through the K-YES program, over 32,000 youth now have an ID card which plays an important role in the security and social economic development of the country.

Young adults in Kenya wait in a line to register for national ID cards.

Young adults from Kenya wait in line to register for national ID cards. Photo from K-YES

K-YES Impact

K-YES has worked with 50+ companies to develop a demand-driven, nationally accredited vocational curriculum and established over 122 new public-private partnerships in key sectors. More than 300,000 youth have been offered access to financial services, business and work readiness skill training and youth mentorship networks that has resulted in greater than 50,000 youth gaining new or better employment.

As the program nears completion, the focus has shifted to compiling and sharing experiences and lessons learned to help shape youth empowerment programming in the future.

Video

Learn more about the Kenya Youth Employment and Skills (K-YES) program and hear firsthand stories from some of the young people who participated.