Africa Internship Academy: “Skills are the currency of the 21st century”

The Africa Internship Academy (AIA) is a successful youth employment accelerator in Ghana, serving young people and businesses all over West Africa. Its ideas and methods have won the Social Enterprise Award in 2017 as well as the recognition of the African Union as one of Africa’ best tools for youth development. Club Africa discusses the secrets of AIA’s success with its co-founder Emmanuel Leslie Addae.

Africa holds a very high rate of youth unemployment. In Ghana, about 120,000 young people graduate from various institutions with about 10% getting employed after the first year of completion. Over 16% will never work in their lifetime, yet every year, thousands of job vacancies go unfilled. Employers have trouble finding people who are ‘ready for work’.

“Youth unemployment in Ghana is basically not because there are no jobs in Ghana”, says Emmanuel Leslie Addae, co-founder of the Africa Internship Academy. “There is a mismatch between the jobs available in the country and the young people who are desperately searching for work. The gap is in creativity and innovation skills, poor social networks, limited resources to look for work, poor attitudes of graduates towards job opportunities, and unavailability of funding capital for entrepreneurship.”

Training, internships, mentoring

To make change happen, Emmanuel and his co-founders decided to launch AIA in 2016, with a combination of work training, internships and mentorship. They decided to implement a program called Work Integrated Learning Program (WILP), a practical and effective way of providing relevant and progressive skills to young people. “The goal: to make them work-ready. We teach them about design thinking, emotional intelligence in the workplace, financial literacy skills, entrepreneurial skills, presentation/communication skills and organizational skills.” The training is then complemented with internship placements in companies with active mentoring, offered by 50 companies and 150 experienced mentors.

A golden combination, it seems: training, followed by internships and mentoring?

“The results of the students we worked with have been remarkable. Out of our 195 fellows who have graduated from the program, we have over 32% that have moved into self-employment, 28% are now full-time working staff in various corporate organizations. 11% are working part-time, 9% are volunteers, 15% are working on contract and 5% still in school.” What entrepreneurial and employable skills are key to success in finding and keeping jobs?

Emmanuel Leslie Addae: “There are several, such as communication skills, networking skills, research skills and team work skills. Teamwork forms an integral part of life. One must be taught how to integrate properly with people of different background and orientation. Interaction, collaboration, negotiation and compromise are some essentials of an excellent teamwork.” Emmanuel stresses that the AIA programs also teach young people organizational skills, to properly plan tasks and to learn time management. “We also hope to spark creativity, as a creative mind triggers success and excellence.”

How did you manage to interest businesses in partnering?

“Finding partners and sponsors has not be easy. The first partner we had for the AIA internship program was Ecobank who agreed to host our fellows after the 4 weeks integrated learning program. As I speak to you we have about 50 organizations that host our fellows for additional one month internship at their various organizations. Apart of training young people, the other major task is to find partners who will fund as well as host the interns after the program. We leverage on our relationships with corporate companies to support the program. With regards to finding mentors, we normal do Mentors call, where we get people to volunteer their time to mentor of fellows.”

How does your job new site fit into AIA’s story?

“We observed that training and equipping people with skills was very good, but we needed an additional platform that could connect these people with active recruiters across Africa. We realized we could utilize our numerous contacts we have over the years got. Since we have direct contacts with active entry talent recruiters across Africa, we decided that, after training people, we will give them the opportunity to sign on a platform that could connect them directly to these recruiters in Africa. This was how came about.”

“We launched the platform in Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Senegal and Cote D'ivoire. We believe that a workable solution in Ghana can easily work in other part of Africa since we share similar problems. It is our aim to have presence in every part of this continent, but we want to pilot it in these six countries first.”

What comes next?

“Currently our major plan is to set up an ‘Africa Youth Skills & Data Badge’ across the continent where young people will be required to undergo a particular training to get certification. This initiative sought to create a skillset mindset and attitude among higher education students in Africa. This is an important motto of AIA: Skills have become the global currency of the 21st century’!”

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