Career guidance supports young people to acquire the skills they need to earn a good living doing something they like, and are good at, doing. Young people tell us they would like that guidance to start in primary school, but most students around the world don’t get it all – and if they do, it’s often very rudimentary and unhelpful. A recent study in Tanzania found that only 0.2% of high school students had any kind of career guidance during their school career. Schools that offer career guidance stand a better chance of motivating students to excel in school careers designed to help them to achieve their goals. At the very least, career guidance helps students understand why they are at school. If youth have no idea why they are studying what they are studying, it should be no surprise to educators that many of them drop out. Career guidance is often done very badly by teachers. Often, they are not paid for it, so, for them, it is just an additional chore. Many are trying to raise standards: the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG) has a global mandate and, in the UK, Futurewise, Youth Employment UK and Adviza are doing the same nationally. In the USA, the National Career Development Association does the same, and in Australia, the World of Work Programme has inspired thousands of students.
Career network support: Bridge for Change (B4C) recognizes what has long been understood in OECD countries: that career decisions are among the hardest – and easiest to get wrong – that any child or parent faces. Given the almost total absence of career counselling in LEDCs, B4C saw the potential of peer-to-peer career counselling that would be basically free as it would be run by students themselves. Now piloted in seven schools in Dar es Salaam, it has proved extremely popular among students. It organises workshops where successful doctors, bankers, politicians, business and self-employed people explain how they managed their education to achieve what they did. Their stories are then published on the B4C website. [See article by Ocheck Msuva, Founder B4C, below] Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI): Because career guidance is often done poorly by teachers, CDI plans to build on B4C’s idea and create a ‘Connector Network’ of youth to connect schools with industries seeking recruits locally and encourage employers to appoint ‘connectors’ to their local schools so that each can know better what the other does.
Ocheck Msuva, Founder and CEO, Bridge for Change Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Preparing youth for after school life through career consultation,
facilitating self-learning and supporting student initiative
When I was forced by family circumstances to stop school in 2004, my only thought was how to get back there. In 2009 I managed to do so: I sat my O levels and passed to go to high school. Later, I managed to enter the prestigious University of Dar Es Salaam. Though that was a dream that come true, I quickly realized that being at university did not mean that I have solved all my life problems. I had new challenges, and questions about what to do next? At secondary level, we didn’t have that question: teachers told us that going to university was the answer to every problem. But – Post-University, I had to answer this question: “How will my life look like?’’ As a child, I’d been forced to live on the street, so where to sleep and what to eat was never a problem for me. At secondary school and university, I involved myself in extra-curricular and volunteer activities and this enabled me to build experience. I also began to understand the challenges my fellow youth were facing: I was eager to find out what future do they dream about? – what desires are driving their actions? One thing was very clear: many students struggled to answer these important questions – What is my dream? Where do I want to be? Can I influence the result of my actions? What new skills do I need to change my reality? With my experience as a volunteer, I decided to start a youth-led organization. I called it Bridge for Change – as it tried to help youth bridge the change between school/university and the world of work. Our first task was to ask some questions:
- Do youth in university have any idea about the career path they should pursue?
- Do they get any guidance on the career options that lie ahead of them?
- How many have ever heard of the concept of career planning?
- Do Out-of-school youth get guidance on how to get what they want out of life?
It quickly became clear that the answers to all these questions was “No!” Career Guidance is an area that has been totally forgotten about in my country: youth have little or no information or knowledge about the options they have in life. I realized that this lack of knowledge and failure to do any kind of career planning, is a major cause of youth unemployment. When youth do not have dreams to focus their energy on, they see no reason why to act. They lack energy and drive. When they do have a dream, they see no clear path to achieving it. But most initiatives addressing youth unemployment focus on training them how to write a good CV. That question comes later. Before they leave school, all youth have to answer four key questions:
- Who I am?
- Who do I want to be?
- How to get there? – and –
- How to keep going?
To answer these questions, I came up with a programme called Career Network Support (CNS.) The gap that CNS works to fill is that only 2% of Tanzanian students ever receive career guidance. As a result, they struggle to understand and plan for their future. While many job creation and vocational training schemes are underway, youth’s lack of self-awareness and sense of purpose remains a key barrier. They also lack 21st-century skills such as the ability to collaborate and innovate so we started CNS in secondary schools to help young people understand who they are, where their potential lies and then come up with ways to help them be self-learners and answer these key questions by themselves. We want to help youth to thinking about their future while they have the time to shape their character and personality in a way that will help them achieve their dreams and plans. This is the key to unlocking youth potential and resolving the unemployment problem. More effort and resources need to be focused on this area globally by all stake-holders. CAREER CONSULTATION: Deciding on who / what you want to be is not an easy task for youth and our education system in Low Income Countries is not designed to solve this existential challenge that all youth are facing. Another big challenge for the youth to become more innovative and to make them courageous to face their challenges. For that, youth need sensitive consultation about their future, about the possibilities of being someone. We’ve found that peer to peer Career consultation is one effective approach that helps youth address the employment challenge facing them. Youth who are mentored in our programme feel more possibility of solving the problems they face. With CNS, we have been working to create a “Dreams of Change” network of connected youth who do things: for example, some students have worked together to turn an under-utilized classroom into a Library. It is in that kind of space that we can deliver our peer to peer career consultation sessions, and help each student grow to become better persons. FACILITATING SELF-LEARNING: Instead of investing so much on just providing funds for youth training centres (a good thing) – we should also invest in student-led initiatives like CNS which encourage self-learning. The key to self-learning is to help youth to understand their potential and to believe in themselves. At our centre, every day we have youth who come in to seek support on what to do in their life, and we encourage them to take the lead in designing their future. We have to inspire curiosity in them and provide them with resources to take the initiative to teach themselves the skills they need. For example: we have group of youth who want to take a course on how to manager student affairs on computer coding (courses not being taught in our schools yet, we train them how to get these courses on line and teach themselves. This helps them get the skills they need in the labour market and also helps them to start a business.
SUPPORTING STUDENT INITIATIVES: Our aim with CNS is to promote innovation, creativity and skill development for youth. If we can do this, and give youth a chance to show their ability and build their confidence from by supporting their initiatives while they are still in secondary level (14 years up to at least 21) – we will have a chance in Tanzania of equipping our youth with the confidence to do the jobs required by the existing labour market and / or to start their own entrepreneurial adventures in self-employment.