Getting young people ready for work – and finding them jobs

Wave is a vocational training platform aimed at empowering millions of disadvantaged West African youth with employability skills. Picture: The Nation
Wave is a vocational training platform aimed at empowering millions of disadvantaged West African youth with employability skills. Picture: The Nation

Godwin Udobassey was working with the loss and prevention department of a security outfit as casual staff when he heard about West Africa Vocational Education, a pioneering social enterprise from an alumni of the organisation. 

He applied to the enterprise because he wanted to acquire more skills and get a steady job after learning about the opportunities the organisation had to offer. 

Three weeks after graduation from Wave, Godwin got a new job with The Orchid Bistro Restaurant as a waiter. 

“The systems thinking I learnt from Wave has helped me to discover errors in my workplace before anyone else within my department – apart from my senior colleagues,” Godwin said. 

Godwin is one of the 435 people who have so far benefited from Wave’s training with more than 70% of them placed in entry-level jobs, doubling and tripling their incomes. 

Over 40 million West African youth are disconnected from the formal economy because they lack academic qualifications, skills and experience. Wave gets these youth ready for work through skills training and connects them to the right entry-level jobs that enhance their social mobility. 

Wave was founded in 2013 by Misan Rewane, a graduate of economics from Stanford University following a discussion with colleagues at the Harvard Business School about unemployment in Africa. 

“It is a vocational training platform aimed at empowering millions of disadvantaged West African youth with employability skills that transform their mindsets and employment opportunities that enhance their social mobility through vocational training.” 

According to Rewane, Wave provides self-motivated youth with skills employers want, teaches them how to stand out professionally by inculcating a mindset of continuous improvement and places them in paid technical apprenticeships in high-growth industries where they earn while they learn. 

“We identify, train and place talented under-served youth in entry-level jobs in high-growth industries [like the retail and hospitality sector] that double their income.

We screen job-seekers for innate talent like emotional intelligence and provide training in industry-relevant employability skills, like problem solving and customer relations. Making a match is a win for our trainees and employer partners.” 

Wave is a vocational training platform aimed at empowering millions of disadvantaged West African youth with employability skills. Picture: The Nation

Wave’s three-week training programme offers a unique combination of hands on tasks, case studies and simulations. 

“The classes were fun, my teammates were awesome and I learnt so many things that I did not have the opportunity to learn in four years at university,” said Temiloluwa Abiola, an alumnus of Wave. 

“Our trainers did not mind repeating themselves just for one person to grasp the point. They were relentless in helping us to understand the lessons.” 

By empowering these youth, Wave seeks to enhance their social mobility and spark a cultural mindset change of professional excellence that could catalyse Africa’s economic development. 

Potentially Wave’s screen, train, place model could be replicated across other regions beyond West Africa to reach and connect millions of young people to jobs. 

Wave’s target group is the traditionally excluded populations (18-35 year-olds without a university degree living on less than $2/day). It focuses on harder-to-teach soft skills and changing industry behaviour by promoting a “hire for attitude, train for skill approach”. 

Hope Mari, another beneficiary of Wave’s training said she learnt a lot about team work which has helped her at work. 

“It has changed my orientation completely. Before I joined Wave, I used to hate anything that had to do with joint work. I would rather do my own part and leave the rest. But with what I have learnt at Wave I can say I now see the need and have more understanding about team work.”

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