By: Dempster N. Harris
The Prospects program Manager, Mr. Nyema J. Richards has disclosed that a Mercycorps seed grant is targeting 20,000 young people in the country.
“The seed grant is one of the things we provide under the employments and the entrepreneurship channel that we run and also give financial grant to social businesses” he said.
The program, Mr. Richard said, is targeting the total of 20,000 youths through training, job matching and seed funds for small businesses. He revealed that the Prospect program is a youth employment program that has been in existing since 2012.
He disclosed that the third phase of the program began September 2017 noting that the previous phases of the program has reached and empowered 6,500 youth in Montserrado, Bong and Grand Bassa counties.
He mentioned that this third phase of the program will end in 2020. “There are two basic ways we approach employment for young people based on the labor market, which is the demand and the supply for labor” he said.
He said the program works with young people who have the skills and the talents to offer labor. He said Mercycorps uses its theory of change in helping young people build their self-confidence, increase their skills and look for opportunities where they can be able to get job, which is the supply side.
“To balance this within the labor market by using the demand side what we do is to work with the employer on providing job within the private sector so that young people who we have rebuilt their skill and increased their self-confidence should have the opportunity of a job” he said.
He said the program engages private businesses by investing both capital and business advisory to help the business grow so that people who are qualified can have job.
“We are investing into the private sector because we all know that the private sector doesn’t offer sufficient job so this is what we decided to add additional effort to help increase employment opportunity” said Richards.
He said the program prepares young people in lifelong competencies that enable them to be marketable.
He said there are some youths who got the skill and got the knowledge but they don’t know where to look for jobs. “They don’t know how to develop an attractive and appealing CV/Resume. These are areas we train skilled young people in the preparation of quality CV/Resume and motivational letter” said Richards.
He said rookie job seekers are taught on workplace terrain etiquette, work readiness, and effective job application, interview skills and techniques and ethics.
Mr. Richards said Mercycorps carries out lot of publicity to ensure that many young people have access to information about the program. “There’s an outreach team that goes out to communities sharing what we do, meeting different youth groups, they also go from community to community organizing events so people can be aware of what we do, we also use local radio stations as a means of publicity” he said.
He said the apprenticeship program is where the approach is more demand-driven. Mercycorps, he said, uses outreach team to go out to businesses and employers to identify business opportunities for young people to get employed.
One of the key challenges, said Richards, the labor market survey for youth around 2011-2012 indicates that other than lack of education there were different issues. One of them being lack of job experience that most young people did not have.
He said businesses reported lack of trust in young people that they were more prone to stealing, changing their location and others, but businesses are more confident if they knew that there is a group who interacts with youth, trains them and recommends them, then they are prone to taking them. “So what we do with the apprenticeship program is after we’ve identified the opportunities with the business, the business will be able to point at specific area and requirement and our pitch to them is simple, such as: we have young and energetic people, they have the skills, some of them have knowledge, all we need is to give an opportunity.
We’ve also assured potential employers our apprentice are going to provide free labor for three months and they will help grow their businesses, Richards said. He disclosed that his organization vouches for the apprentice how these are the type of people to interact with. He said they’ve usually told potential employer how the apprentice were trained so they won’t be lazy but productive, and these people needed was a shot and see if they’re capable enough to absorb whatever business opportunity employers have.
Hear Richards: “Also opportunities, for instance in finance, or in marketing or whatever areas, we catalogue all of those opportunities and publish it for those who’re trained in such areas to apply and before you are assigned we do pre employment training and after that we deploy them. When we deploy them with those businesses over the years what we see is that businesses have absorb about half of most of the time of the total number of placement we’ve had. So over the last batch 2 that we placed, the businesses took about 53 percent of the total number of people we placed and that batch had the total of 148 persons and they took more than half of them. So we have seen a lot of success in what we do. For the rest of the people who were not taken, its because the businesses don’t have enough funding to employ more people. Some of the youth themselves have now found better opportunities. Some of them want to go back to school; some of them may say I am not comfortable with the salary I am making while some of them who are in need took advantage of the opportunity and move on.” He narrated.
The 20,000 young people with this current funding with prospects, Richards emphasized, are all being funded by the Swedish government and the people of Sweden.
He declared that an approved funding is coming through from the French government for the first time coming into Liberia and Mercycorps is anticipating to support and scale up youth programming by another 11,000. He stated the funding is supposed to cover 11,000 but would not speak further about it because while it is true they have agreed the concept; all the other details of the program are not known and are currently being worked out. He said once the details are known, those will be published.
Richards informed this paper that his organization is currently doing a lot of our work in Montserrado, Bong and Nimba counties.