When painting creates hope
"The project is good, it allows me to be an independent woman," says Edwige Domi, who recently completed training in building painting. A resident of the Koumassi commune in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, she is carefully applying paint to a private building located at cité 80 logements in the commune. Beside her is Jean-Claude N'dri, who states that "it's a trade that opens many doors."
This is a golden opportunity because young people are struggling to find a decent job in Côte d'Ivoire. Opportunities are few and far between, and in a country where only one quarter of students complete lower secondary school, job seekers often lack the skills required by employers. In addition, the education system continues to promote a very traditional academic education ill-suited to technical trades and even less so to the jobs of tomorrow. Young people are often left to fend for themselves, as there are very few vocational schools and apprenticeships are virtually non-existent. Whenever opportunities do arise, they learn on the job or from their elders. Access to jobs is even more difficult for women who, upon entering primary school, face deep inequalities that are exacerbated by social norms in adulthood. Our latest report on the economic situation in Côte d'Ivoire sheds light on this situation.
To address this situation and give a boost to young Ivorians who represent 35.5% (Source: RGPH 2014) of the population, the Government launched the Emergency Youth Employment and Skills Development Project (PEJEDEC). This World Bank-financed project seeks to provide better professional opportunities for young people through the acquisition of specific skills. Since 2012, roughly 27,500 male and female job seekers in the 18-35 age bracket, some of whom are graduates, have already benefited from this project. They were able to either pursue training programs or professional internships or secure a scholarship, which, based on a number of the testimonies we heard, is a necessary step to finding a job and earning a living.
The training programs in the building and public works trade, which are provided through apprenticeships, are one of the greatest achievements of the PEJEDEC. More than 800 young people received theoretical training followed by practical work experience in building painting. They helped restore the facades of private residences and administrative buildings in the district of Abidjan and in 22 cities across the country. This training was closely carried out with private companies that shared their expertise and provided some of the supplies such as paint and tools.
This initiative achieved two goals: it offered many young people training in a booming sector and helped beautify many buildings and the urban environment. It also provides us with important areas for discussion, a number of which can be summed up in the following two questions:
- Do you think that these public programs for youth employment must necessarily partner with the private sector, because only this sector can provide useful skills at an affordable cost?
- Shouldn't vocational training, which is still viewed as the "poor relation" to education in Côte d'Ivoire, be further developed?