Adebola Williams: Enabling youth for the future of work

How The Future Africa Internship Program is set to correct the skills gap and pioneer new ways of enabling young people for the future of work

Adebola Williams
Generation Unlimited
14 May 2021

Africa is one of the most challenging places for a young person to develop a happy and rewarding career. In our continued engagement with young people, supported by reference reports on the state of unemployment in Nigeria and an ongoing survey of their challenges in Nigeria, access to people and industry knowledge are key deterrents to sustainable employment – higher than skills and job availability. We have found out that many people end up on the wrong career path because it is the only option available to provide their basic needs – most people go down this rabbit hole for a long time without an opportunity to live their potential. Popular Nigerian musician Falz, and comedian MC Lively were trained lawyers who never practiced law. The duo of Falz and MC Lively became successful in their career detour - most young Africans never do. This has further created an unhealthy imbalance; jobs that seem easily accessible have excess applicants while those with little general knowledge have fewer applicants.

Our Solution 

In Nigeria and Africa in general, the traditional educational institutions (over 70% of institutions) are not structured to provide guidance on real-life experience – the Student Industrial Work Experience (SIWES) and the National Youth Service schemes (NYSC) are ill-equipped to guide students or measure employer impact on beneficiaries. 

To improve service delivery, job satisfaction, the pool of qualified youth and curb underemployment, there must be a new approach to providing industry knowledge and experience for ready-to-enroll youth in Africa. Using innovation to correct the skills gap across our economic landscape and pioneering a new way of enabling young people, precisely the future of work. On December 2nd 2020, the empowered citizens of The Future Project Africa (TFP) commissioned The Future Africa Internship Program (FAIP).

The Future Africa Internship Program (FAIP) is an industry-focused career preparatory program that seeks to expose thousands of young Africans to experience in their chosen area of expertise by harnessing our extensive network of nominees and collaborators aggregated in our 15 years of rewarding young innovators across Africa to provide an opportunity for qualifying young Africans to have firsthand experience in their industry of choice. Essentially, young Africans with less than two years of work experience will spend a minimum of 90 days with a select mentor organization or individual who has attained veteran status in their chosen profession.

This is a data-driven program with streetwise protagonists that can guide both job seekers and employers to play their essential role in creating sustainable job creation protocols for each industry-focused ecosystem.

The Future Awards Africa since its inception in 2005, has created and connected a new elite set of change makers and nation builders across sectors, from causes to businesses, in creativity and innovation. Furthermore, Internship host organizations will be graded, and the best of them recognized at the closing events of the LCCI Annual Conference in 2021 and The Future Africa Awards 2021, respectively.

These industry skills internships will enable the beneficiaries to gain insight on; growth pathways, key individuals, policy process, and academic requirements to succeed in their chosen profession. 

Interested applicants will undergo a five-stage selection process; once verified, prospective interns will undergo a 14-day capacity building program on workplace and FAIP values - training on value, basic use of office tools, which equips them with the right mindset to deliver value for their host organization; including a phone and virtual interview. We would support interns learning experience by providing a monthly stipend (up to 3 months) to intern once the host individual/organization accepts them.  

Prospective interns will be recruited via a transparent online process - this can be accessed through Successful beneficiaries will be matched according to proximity and career alignment with available host organizations. Our value proposition informs this focus on Human Capital Development: Africa's growth needs a generation of young people who are gainfully employed and demand better leadership. FAIP is one step further in building young Africans' capacity to effectively navigate their way through the challenging growth path of their chosen career.

We have the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)’s commitment and are currently seeking partners across Nigeria & Africa. While we’re reopening the application due to more interest we already have about 2,569 applications & several commitments from individuals and organizations to take in interns.

Our goal is to train and place at least 1000 young Nigerians through internships across host organizations in Africa. The program will also create a protocol for the deliberate development of a particular skill set within a sector.  We see three possible pathways after the internships;

  1. Intern get retained at the host organization
  2. Intern secure a job in another organization with lessons and networks built through internship
  3. Intern get a better understanding of the industry and decide to become an entrepreneur or change career focus

Whichever one of these pathways they choose, their experiences will be documented over one year to enable us to come up with a report on career trajectory in emerging economies within Africa.

This project's key component is to document, understand, and support skills balance through intentional guidance for young Africans as they begin their career journey. We will intentionally study trajectories and motivations as we progress while focusing on the execution team's optimal performance. We would have weekly activity updates from all interns. We would have two major reviews in 2021 to understand areas of improvement, especially feedback and guidance from industry experts on what their changing needs and actualizations are.

In the initial six months, we will collate and manage feedback in-house. An independent consultant will be engaged in the second half of project execution to conduct a general assessment and work with the team to chart a growth path for the initiative.

The future of work is about focus on the individual rather than tasks and locations.

The Future Africa Internship program will create a new generation of Africans who are intentionally equipped and guided through their passion: they will easily navigate the competitive global career terrain because they will have the unique opportunity of standing on the shoulder of industry giants.