Skills training gives Somalian youth a chance

Skills training gives Somalian youth a chance

Youth constitute an estimated 70% of Somalia’s 11 million-strong population. They have the potential to be a key asset for the recovery and growth of Somalia. However, if they are not brought into the development framework and provided with real options to improve their livelihoods, youth could also be a destabilizing force.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) provides skills training to young men and women to encourage social cohesion and help build peace, stability and security in a country wracked by a decades-long civil war between rival clan warlords.

The Brothers Welding Group developed as a result of a Japan-funded UNIDO project, Community Stabilization: Countering Violence and Extremism through Skills Training and Livelihoods Support for At-Risk Youth in Kismayo, which was completed in 2015.

As part of this project, UNIDO provided on-the-job training to revitalize local assets and engage youth in actively contributing to community recovery. UNIDO identified a number of practical training-related initiatives that contributed to improving the local infrastructure and rehabilitating public assets. The approach builds trade and vocational competencies, and also addresses pressing infrastructure upgrading needs.

Six unskilled and/or underemployed youths from various enterprises in the local market engaged with metalwork were selected. The training took place at containerized training workshops established by UNIDO at the Kismayo International Airport. An international welding expert mentored a local national trainer to lead the training of these six youths from different backgrounds, ages and clans.

The group, which had an average age of 22, quickly formed a bond. During the four-week training, the six focused on an introduction to arc welding. As a practical exercise, the trainees contributed to the rehabilitation of a maintenance workshop of the Ministry of Transportation at the airport, as well as repairing the airport’s gates.

One of the trainees explained, “During the training, we fabricated steel trusses as a practical exercise. Another UNIDO training in the construction group was rehabilitating the maintenance workshop. We contributed to the fabricated steel trusses for the new roof. The opportunity to combine theoretical training and practical work was very helpful to us to understand more about what technical and team skills are needed, as well as the daily dedication to work together to achieve and finish a product.”

As part of UNIDO’s programme, trainees also attended a three-day conflict minimization training session to further develop life and personal skills to deal with conflict in their communities.

An independent evaluation into the project interviewed graduates of the programme and found that that skills development led to a growth in income and an increase in work opportunities. Trainee graduates reported more respect from their community and were less likely to join local armed groups as a result of the skills and conflict training. Beneficiaries reported enhanced abilities to integrate into their local community and manage local conflict drivers. It was reported that individuals across clans were now communicating together, in some cases for the first time.

At the end of the training, instead of competing with each other for technical start-up toolkits at graduation of the training, the youth approached UNIDO with a business plan to form their own company and share the toolkits. The Brothers Welding Group was born.

With skills, equipment and renewed optimism, the youth rented a workshop site in the market and within days had their first order to construct an industrial garbage can for a local hotel. Their work progressed to production of small windows and doors and repair work in the town. They started gaining a reputation in town for producing high-quality products with the improved tools and technology from the toolkits.

UNIDO has watched these young tradesmen move from small-scale production to regular business with the private sector and earn a reputation for high-quality products and service. Their level of income has increased considerably from USD 10 per day before the training to USD 28 today.

UNIDO has continued its contact with the Brothers Welding Group, with group members both providing services and serving as trainers and mentors in metalwork to trainees participating in a new project. They act as role models to the other youth. It is possible to learn new skills and start a business.

Today, UNIDO is continuing its work in southern town of Kismayo through a new joint project with UN-Habitat, funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, and has expanded its cooperation with the Government of Japan with a new project targeting at-risk youth in the town of Dhobley, as well as a vocational skills training project targeting displaced populations in the Afmadow District, to the north of Kismayo.

By Charles Arthur