Caption: YIP alumni in the youth skills development exposition in 2016
Uganda’s population is the second youngest worldwide, with approximately 78% under 30 years. The country has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa. With extremely limited jobs in the formal sector, the labour market has become highly competitive, leaving most young people to engage in informal and/or seasonal work, fuelling frustration and exposing many to exploitation.
Youth face multiple institutional barriers to securing employment. This includes: misalignment of education with labour market needs; lack of access to skills training and work experience opportunities; limited access to information about job opportunities and career guidance; and restricted access to land, inputs and markets. Youth also face cultural barriers. They are often seen as unskilled and undisciplined. However, recent research indicates that employers are willing to support youth transition into employment, but remain unsure on how to do so effectively – placing an increasing need on youth sector partnerships.
With an annual population growth of 3.3%, unemployment is expected to remain a challenge in the years ahead. However, recent growth in various economic sectors and Uganda’s natural assets mean that new possibilities are emerging.
The Youth Internship project aims to better position young people to benefit from these opportunities. It provides a platform for young people to develop skills, access work experience and build the networks required to meaningful employment. And it also fosters positive perceptions about youth amongst public and private sector employers.
How does it work?
The Youth Internship Program pairs fresh graduates ready to enter the workforce to a relevant employer in order to build their professional skill set. Thousands apply but only a few are chosen to intern with companies and organizations from a variety of sectors (agriculture, financial services, hospitality, development, government, etc) . The program has a national reach with interns placed in various districts including Kampala, Lira, Jinja, Mbale, Moroto, Gulu, Wakiso, Busia among others. The applicants chosen are usually from vulnerable backgrounds with high academic success. The interns receive a minimum monthly stipend of 500,000 UGX (138 USD), contributed by both the employer and Restless Development.
Caption: Wakoko Eric, a YIP intern placed at the Uganda National Association of the Blind
Restless Development trains the selected young people equipping them with employability skills such as critical thinking, workplace etiquette, time management, communication, report and resume writing. Restless Development also trains the employers on their role and responsibilities as mentors and how to ensure their intern is having a productive and meaningful placement. The internship program lasts for a period of 6 months, with a mid-term training to address gaps identified during the initial 3 months of the internship.
Restless Development knows that one of the most frustrating aspects of an internship for a young person is feeling useless so it is extremely important to structure it in a way that both interns and host employers get the most out of it. Hence all the YIP are structured placements, with a work plan and performance goals. Our staff provide continuous support and mentorship to both interns and employers so they can overcome any challenges they may face during the placement period.
What is it like to be an intern in Uganda? Check out the video below;
The goal of the program is to equip young people with work-readiness skills and practical work experience. The programme allows employers to realize the benefits of hosting an intern which can be shaped as per the specific organization’s needs while bringing a fresh perspective into their ways of working. These interns become invaluable assets to most of the organizations which have been involved in the Youth Internship program, with an average retention rate of 60%.
Caption: Graduation party of the last YIP internship cycle in March 2017
For the past four years, we have placed 200 graduates with more than 50 host institutions across Uganda. 80% of the interns have transitioned into meaningful and gainful employment.
An Intern's Journey
Catherine Nasuuma holds a BS in Agricultural Sciences by Makerere University. She decided to apply for the Youth Internship Program as she didn’t feel her degree had provided her with the professional skills she would need at her future workplace.
Caption: Catherine Nasuuna, a YIP intern placed at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories.
"[The Youth Internship Program] gave me a lot of exposure, and I really gained a lot of skills to build my career. I really loved the Foundation Training. It really taught me about life skills, workplace skills, and leadership skills... how to talk to my boss and time management was paramount." - Nasuuna Catherine
Caption: Catherine Nasuuna at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories.
"I would encourage the Agricultural Sciences graduates to join this programme… I not only gained technical knowledge on research and agronomy but also developed professional skills to build my career on. "- Nasuuna Catherine
She’s one of the 160 interns which were offered jobs by their host institutions.
 Business Agenda Uganda 2011-2014. Federation of Uganda Employers.
 Youth Map Uganda: Navigating Challenges. Charting Hope.International Youth Foundation and USAID. 2011.