Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
According to the Global Employment Trends 2014 Report of the International Labor Organization, the labor market outlook for young people worsened in nearly every region of the world. The global youth unemployment rate rose to 13.1 per cent in 2013, from 12.9 per cent in 2012 and 11.6 per cent in 2007.
The DRC is no exception. The Youth Map Report (2013) revealed that ‘more than 7.3 million out-of-school young people are left even further behind in achieving their full potential’. Youths have potential, but more than 80 percent of young Congolese are underemployed, and 58 percent are unemployed. The DRC’s labor market is out of balance. Finding work is a real challenge for youths in Kinshasa. Another study has also revealed that ‘barely 5% of youths in DRC find employment corresponding to their ability’. Rising youth unemployment has reached critical levels that require our urgent attention. In the absence of any real employment policy in DRC to help the youths, the Bridge Project will build an advocacy coalition for youth policy development and implementation, including the integration of volunteerism and social entrepreneurship into the legal framework.
Obviously, there is a need for youths to have decent work in Kinshasa in order to actively participate to the social and economic advancement of their community. This need must be met as soon as possible because youths represent the future of Congo. The DRC is a country full of natural resources, but human resources are still a problem. Youths have great potential for growth, and the Bridge Project will invest on this potential. We need to start somewhere, because it is a process. Youth unemployment rates in Kinshasa are unknown, but they are really high. It is a fact that we see every day in Kinshasa. One of the reasons of this phenomenon is the fact that formal education in DRC does not always equip youths with enough knowledge and skills for the 21st century job market. As a result, there is a mismatch between formal education and the real world of work. The other reason is the lack of career services in universities to prepare students for the job market, which impedes their ability to do basic things like writing a resume or getting ready for a job competency-based interview.
Despite the high number of youth centers in DRC, they do not specifically address the issue of youth unemployment. One of the challenges that youths face when filing a job application after their graduation from university is their lack of experience. Yet, society does not always give a chance nor does it help youths get this required experience. Even internship opportunities are not always available because getting an internship opportunity in Kinshasa sometimes implies knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone who can help; and this does not necessarily mean that a positive feedback will be given.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
While there is also a need for a reform in the educational system in Congo, which will take time, the good news is that the Bridge Project is there to try and solve youth unemployment by creating partnerships and volunteer opportunities for young women and men in order to increase their employability. The Bridge will also provide training on social entrepreneurship and soft skills. The priority of the Bridge Project is to answer to the immediate needs of youths who finish high school, who want to gain experience through volunteerism, entrepreneurship and access to mentors before they decide to continue their studies at higher education, on one hand, and those who have recently graduated from university and are still struggling to find a decent job, on the other hand. These youths have the potential to actively participate to the social and economic development of their community, and the Bridge Project aims at investing on their potential and increasing their employability. There is a need to be fulfilled. There is a gap to be filled. There is a Bridge to be built.
Organizations always have a project that has never been started or an assignment that is not yet completed, which do not necessarily need an intern. There is still a lot to be done in terms of agricultural projects in remote areas of Kinshasa. The Bukanga Lonzo project is one of these opportunities where youths could volunteer and have access to employment later on. We build partnerships with existing organizations in the non-profit sector, public sector and private sector. We get to know their needs and upcoming projects and offer them cost-effective ways to solve their problems: volunteers. We recruit volunteers from high schools and universities to work on short-term projects based on the needs of these organizations. We train these young people on life skills, professional skills and entrepreneurship. We also partner with another social enterprise to train youths on leadership to help them to become change agents..
For the first three months of this pilot project, targeted youths will develop technical, professional, and social entrepreneurship skills. They will then apply those skills during the second three months on a volunteer assignment at one of our corporate partners. During this time they will be supported by professional mentors and a powerful network of community-based partners and ongoing training and mentorship. Organizations such i-JetNet, an Apple reseller, have already been contacted and will host some of our volunteers.
Based on the assumption that youth unemployment is a major threat to DRC’s stability and development, and recognizing that skills development and volunteerism are important components of our strategy, we will engage youths in volunteer assignments, while enabling them to make a difference in host organizations and their community. By the same occasion, they will increase their employability, become competitive in the fierce labor market and enhance their social entrepreneurship and ability to create jobs.