Tackling the Youth Skills Gap in Uganda: An Update from Makerere University
Written By: Team Makerere, Hans Klinger, Elizabeth Foster, Matthew Hamilton, Jeannie Valkevich, and Carolyn Chuong
We arrived in Uganda around midnight, which meant we needed to wait an extra day to see the bright blue sky, rich red clay, and lush green foliage of East Africa. However, what we didn’t have to wait for were the bright smiles of the welcoming Ugandan people. Charles, one of our clients at Makerere University, was awaiting our arrival with a Berkeley baseball hat, personalized sign, decaled car, and a grin ear to ear. This would become standard during our first week in-country, when we would meet Makerere students, university professors, the Governor of the central Bank of Uganda, the Prime Minister, and many others.
Our team is working specifically with the Makerere University Private Sector Forum (PSF), which was established 11 years ago as a public-private partnership in the country’s largest and most prestigious university. The Forum’s mission is to bridge academia and the private sector to foster socioeconomic development throughout the country. It’s now launching a new center, for which our IBD team is creating the strategic plan, that will address the youth skills gap in Uganda.
Before arriving, and continuing into our first-week in-country, we’ve conducted over 50 interviews across what our client calls the ‘trinity’: Academia, the Public Sector, and the Private Sector. Part of the process was understanding the student perspective and, in particular, their pain points as they enter the workforce. To that end, we carried out a design thinking workshop for 23 students, led by our team’s former rockstar teacher (and timekeeper connoisseur) Jeannie. After a silly icebreaker that involved some pretty embarrassing dance moves on our end, we asked students to draw out their “journey maps.” Students mapped out the high points when they felt encouraged and confident about the career development process, as well as low points when they felt confused or discouraged. Given that the students were overflowing with ideas Jeannie had her work cut out facilitating the group discussion.
The workshop really started to get rolling after the break. Four groups of students, each paired with one IBD team member, began to ideate on potential programming for the new Center. After diverging, we encouraged students to converge around an agreed upon set of programs. The groups came up with a number of creative ideas–everything from a student-run farm, to a marketplace to share student ideas with the private sector, to a cross-faculty idea sharing platform. The groups then presented their ideas and recommendations (Shark Tank style) to PSF leadership. And they weren’t shy about asking questions or challenging each others’ proposed programs. As we closed out the session, we had to cut off half-a-dozen raised hands and ask them to keep the conversation going after the workshop. It was pretty inspiring to see how much energy the students had at the end of the three hours. One of the PSF staff members Patrick remarked afterward, “Our students often feel like their voices don’t matter–they were so happy to have their perspective considered.”
After wrapping up the design workshop, we headed over to the Parliament of Uganda to meet with the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, who just happens to be a Cal Alum. Dr. Rugunda has been a staunch supporter of this new center at Makerere University from the start. Before getting down to business, he was eager to hear which states in the U.S. we hailed from. He was back on campus just a few years ago for a class reunion, which I’m sure made some of his classmates feel unaccomplished. Apparently, Berkeley hasn’t changed much since 1978. He also mentioned there was an East Africa Berkeley reunion in Kampala just a few months ago–pretty cool knowing there’s a Cal Bears community in this part of the world. Before heading out, we gave Dr. Rugunda a Cal pennant as a gift, which we’re sure certain he’ll hang behind his desk, right next to the flag of Uganda.
More to come from Kampala soon!