Text Messages Help Young Zambians Find Trainings and Jobs
Jan 15 2013, Zambia [ZM], Economic Development
Young people in Zambia’s Copperbelt province will be able to receive information about training opportunities and business start-up grants via SMS and on their computers. In the near future, radio and television will also be used.
“We are using mobile technology to set up a platform that could enhance the possibilities of youths in Zambia,” says Isaac Chanda. Chanda is the Director of Ndola Youth Resource Centre, a centre that targets youths in Zambia’s Copperbelt province. “An example of how the platform will be used is that we will send young people text messages directly on their phones about grants that the government provides to set up new business, about training courses about for instance carpentry and to link them up with a nearby youth resource centre for more information.”
Enhancing employment opportunities
This mobile initiative is part of a large scale programme conducted by the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) together with its partners Edukans and Text2Change via the Connect4Change consortium. IICD started to support two youth resource centres (Chawama and Ndola Youth Resource Centre) in 2004 by providing basic computer training courses for teachers and students with the ultimate goal of enhancing the employment chances of the students. The success of this project soon led to the expansion of the project, and now the two resource centres are providing advice to Zambia’s ministry of youth and sports as well as various youth resource centres throughout the country about how information and communication technology (ICT) can be used, easily and cost-effectively, to improve services to young people throughout Zambia. Today, IICD and Edukans are working together with selected Youth Resource Centres to enhance employment opportunities for youths throughout Zambia by using a variety of technologies. IICD's technical partner, Text2Change, is supporting IICD and Edukans with the mobile component of the project.
Chanda: “We reach youths through SMS messages, fixed phones, internet and also of course through our resource centre and the other centres that we are linked up with. Here they can also find more information and receive help in developing their skills to write business proposals or apply for grants."
Television and radio
In the near future, Ndola Youth Resource Centre will also use national television and radio to get more information about jobs and start-up grants to Zambian youths, with support from IICD, Edukans and Text2Change. “The information about jobs and grants for young Zambians is out there and the information is sound. Government has it and it’s available at the resource centres. But the challenge we face is how to disseminate it in the fastest way to those who need it. We plan to share this information with young people through the internet and SMS and through TV shows every three months. In the TV shows we will ask them what they would like to know about job opportunities. We can then categorise their responses in four areas and let the young people decide themselves what topic they prefer. Then we will look for prominent guests who can be on the discussion panel. The guests could be people from the government, for instance, or other employment experts.
Through the TV shows and the extra publicity, Chanda also hopes to remove the prejudices that he says exist about youth resource centres: “Youth resource centres are often associated with school drop-outs. Therefore people are often afraid to come to them. We want to show young people that these youth resource centres can provide them with valid sources of information and can even help them to get a job.”
Isaac Chanda will consider the project to be a success if his organisation can really see that young people are starting to use the SMS messages and computers to find jobs. “Then we would know that our communication strategy is meeting the demands of our young people. The second way of determining whether the project is a success is to see if it results in a direct increase in the number of young people taking part in job training programmes at the different vocational training centres all over the country.”