How do you equip young students from across the African continent in order for them to fast track their career trajectories for maximum impact? Train the Trainer, a pilot program born out of a partnership between ALA’s Africa Careers Network (ACN) and the Mastercard Foundation, sought to find this out.
Launched in 2018, Train the Trainer recognized that in order to scale the work ACN does to empower young learners in career readiness, one needs to equip those who empower them – their teachers. As a result, Train the Trainer identified a need for career coaching in Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, and proceeded to run two-day training sessions that would ensure teachers are equipped to support their students when it comes to career guidance.
“With our work through Africa Careers Network,” says ACN director Ayado Ewinyu, “we realized that there are too many young Africans who only start focusing on ideas surrounding their careers in university, by which stage it is already too late. So with our success as a branch of ALA, we, along with the Mastercard Foundation, thought to take our learnings and package them into lessons for others to benefit from.”
In the first year of the program, the team developed a curriculum drawn from learnings that came out of supporting ALA alumni and Mastercard Foundation scholars on their career journeys. This curriculum was then formulated into lesson plans that teachers simply had to follow. What the Train the Trainer team discovered was that in spite of detailed research regarding the respective pilot countries, there was a key ingredient missing: insights from the teachers themselves.
“In our first year we took a one-size-fits-all approach, which we have now learned from,” says Ayado. “It was important for us to understand what the issues and needs were on a grassroots level, and then tailor programming that suits the needs of a particular context.”
The second year of the program, which again saw a team of ALA staff, faculty and alumni head out to Uganda and Ethiopia, was more of “an exchange of ideas”, says ACN fellow, Hilda Nalwanga.
“In Uganda, for example, we kept iterating what our training sessions would look like the more we listened to the teachers,” says Hilda. “We ended up asking teachers, ‘how would you talk to your students about their careers?’ which led to a much more fruitful session.”
In Ethiopia, the team had similar learnings when they realized that something as simple as the classic ‘marshmallow team-building’ exercise could not be done because there were no marshmallows in the country. So they improvised with strawberries instead.
“It is absolutely important to understand the context in which these teachers exist. It is one thing to bring these teachers to a two-day program at a hotel but they go back to the same environment with the same challenges. Through our travels we have also recognized that a program such as Train the Trainer is absolutely necessary and that the how of implementation needs to be customized for each environment,” says Ayado.
ALA’s pan-African network was another reason for the success of the program. The implementation of Train the Trainer drew help from various ALA alumni who helped with translating course material, providing contextual information on the various countries, and more. Vendors who assisted with the delivery of the program were also part of the ALA network. “Working on a project that was cross-cutting and had people collaborating for one purpose has been really exciting,” says Ayado.
The ACN team looks forward to taking lessons from Train the Trainer and further applying them to its mission to facilitate Africa’s economic and social development through Africa’s youth and enabling their network of young leaders to give back to their communities through internships and job opportunities.
For more information on the diverse work that Africa Careers Network does across the continent, visit their website here.