As the world migrates into the fourth industrial revolution, UPSKILL, a venture under The Innovation Village seeking to bridge the demand and supply gap of talent for Uganda’s youth through a physical and virtual skilling platform is making sure that they are buckled up for this new era. UPSKILL is achieving this through equipping young people with today’s in-demand skills that link them to opportunities.  

Youth in Uganda (aged 18-30) constitute 23 per cent of the population, making the country second youngest population in the world. The unemployment rate among youth is estimated at 13.3 per cent. According to a 2019 country report by the International Monetary Fund, 80 per cent of young people were under-educated for their occupations. This mismatch was highest among professionals and is further worsened by the increasing use of technology and current digital skills gap.  

The courses administered under UPSKILL are designed to prepare the growing laborforce for Africa’s future and attract young people from all walks of life, particularly those who want to get an edge in their profession or change careers. 

Take for instance, Hanifah Najjingo, a lawyer interested in solving legal issues through technology. She signed up for the Code Queen boot camp that was held by Educating The Children in partnership with UPSKILL.  Following an observation that the legal world had not fully embraced the use of technology, with legal files being stored in archives which made them inaccessible to both the lawyers and the general public, Najjingo decided to take up programming as a route towards creating a change in the legal field. 

Without a previous background in coding, her confidence has since grown and she is currently interested in pursuing a career in the field.  In just three months she gained skills in coding for both back-end and front-end development. She dreams of developing an application that simplifies law for the ordinary person. She also wants to develop a system for people in the legal profession to store files online as well as make them easily accessible to the public. 

The above is a testament to the efforts of UPSKILL this year. Natasha Kassami, the Business Lead at UPSKILL says 2021 has been a year of building in preparation for growth.

Natasha Kassami, Business Lead, Upskill

To deliver the best courses and sessions with various industry experts, Kassami says the team has spent the better part of the year setting up structures. The team has also put its efforts into skilling, holding several micro-courses and info sessions that were much appreciated and impactful to youths.  

With 2021 marked by the second lockdown that began in June, UPSKILL turned that period into an opportunity to build a community consisting of small-to-medium business owners and young people aspiring to pursue a career or grow their businesses through digital marketing. To this cause, the “42-days of the Digital Marketing Campaign,” in partnership with Bakash Media run with various practitioners in the field of digital marketing facilitating courses for 130 young people owning small businesses or aspiring to own one. 

In addition to this work, UPSKILL has run many other micro-courses throughout the year, for example, Business Intelligence and ‘Accounting; targeted towards small business owners interested in learning about the use of data in making business decisions and how to implement accounting systems for early-stage businesses. Courses in project management for beginners, Social Media Marketing Fundamentals, Leadership and Business Management, Content Creation, Graphic Design to mention but a few were also held.  

UPSKILL seeks to recruit, onboard, train and place learners in high demand tech fields. This work has resulted in great impact with UPSKILL reaching over 1267 learners who completed at least one of the courses or info sessions. Kassami says it’s been fulfilling to see 65 of these graduating into self-employment and having 111 learners linked to work opportunities, internships, mentorships and business opportunities. 

The team’s most celebrated success this year has been UPSKILL creating its e-learning platform that is inclusive of a learning machine system. The platform provides vetted in-demand contextualized, digital skilling courses for graduates and young professionals interested in honing their skills in line with a given career or towards the growth of a business. With all the education materials in one place, learners can study at their own pace. 

There is a lot of success as 2021 ends and part of it is a result of partnerships with industry experts like Educating The Children, Bakash Media and development partners. Kassami says, “A big part of what we have been able to do this year is a direct result of the support and funding we received from the Mastercard Foundation under the Nextwave Program.”  

Additionally, The Innovation Village’s departments played a crucial role. “The Marketing and Communications team helped to lead the development of the Learning Management System (LMS) and Platform, which will go live soon. Suffice to say UPSKILL is being built on the backs of multiple stakeholders and we intend to carry that spirit of partnership into 2022,” Kassami says. 

A few challenges have been in the way, with the most obvious being the second lockdown in June 2021. This pandemic has only further proven the urgency and importance of offering UPSKILL courses online. 

Kassami and the team at UPSKILL, say 2021 has taught them that there is power in adapting and evolving with each turn of the tide, and so 2022 will be the year where they put this into practice.