Lighting up rural Rwanda with 3D printed solar products
Tackling youth unemployment through vocational training
While many Rwandans value a university education above all else, 26-year-old Francois Nkurunziza knew many unemployed young people in Gatore Sector, Kirehe District, would benefit from vocational training.
“We really need competent hairdressers, masons, tailors who work well. With this kind of training I am sure I can reverse the unemployment ratio in my community,’’ he says.
Francois had graduated from university, studying agribusiness. Yet he didn’t want to work in agriculture; what he truly wanted was to start a vocational training centre.
His idea became a reality when he approached the Rwanda Workforce Development Authority. The institution helped him understand the basic requirements to open a vocational training centre, and it was there that Francois met a DOT Rwanda business coach who encouraged him to attend an upcoming DOT social innovation workshop.
The workshop supported Francois to create a vision for his initiative. He conducted market research, identifying his potential customers’ goals and problems. Armed with this knowledge, Francois designed courses to appeal to his customers. Though he had not previously considered offering a computer literacy course, he realized it would increase youth competitiveness on the job market and added it to his plan.
In May 2015, Francois opened the doors to Gatore Vocational Training Center, welcoming 100 students for his first session. The center offers masonry, hairdressing, tailoring and computer literacy skills.
Launching the center was challenging. Francois says, “The beginning was quite thorny. I am thankful to DOT facilitators and coaches. They guided me throughout the process of confirming if my initiative fits the community problem I had identified. They also encouraged me to start with the testing process before spending a lot of money launching something very big.”
The training center is affordable for those families who aren’t able to send their children to university, and Francois does all he can to help students be competitive in the job market. He is planning to work with companies to establish internships for students to develop their skills further after completing their vocational training.
Students say the centre provides a supportive environment. One masonry student says, “I am not only given skills at Gatore VTC, but also taught the value of working hard. This is the spirit that encourages me to excel in everything I do.”
“This training center has become a pride of the community,” says Francois.
Francois is proud of having been connected to DOT, and continues to receive coaching and mentoring from DOT facilitators and coaches. With the networking skills he learned from DOT, he is reaching out to connect with other social entrepreneurs across the country.
In 2017, Francois was among the winners of DOT Rwanda’s Gera Ku Ntego Social Enterprise Competition. He put his cash prize towards the center’s operating expenses, a little bit closer to his dream of transforming the center into a large technical learning center where young people will be able to take any technical course of their choosing.
Francois has come a long way in a short period of time, tackling youth unemployment in Gatore Sector and providing young people the chance to develop the tools, skills and knowledge that will create opportunities for them.
“The training center is affordable for those families who aren’t able to send their children to university, and Francois does all he can to help students be competitive in the job market.”
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