Yusudi, a social enterprise, recruits unemployed graduates, trains and links them to potential employers.
By Ben Oduor
The state of joblessness in most developing countries is alarming. Graduates leave higher institutions of learning with the hope of instantly landing job opportunities after school, getting fatter salaries and living admirable lifestyles thereafter.
But the reality that dawn on them in the job market is sometimes grueling as many struggle for years before landing lucrative jobs.
On the other hand, employers have become tactful. They are not just going to recruit an inexperienced employee and spend resources training them. They’d rather employ a fully experienced staff that understands and delivers to the expectations of the company.
This is why it’s common to see job adverts in local dailies demanding ‘between 3 and 10 years experience’ as a requirement for applicants- sentiments that raise rhetoric questions such as ‘where do they (potential employers) expect us to get such experience yet we’ve just graduated?’
Matters get worse when such graduates are not able to get attachment at competent organizations, forcing some to seek help from influential people. Those that lack the networks are left to wander on their own.
But it is during such breaking moments when one feels the job market is about to slam the door of opportunities on their face that Charlotte De Ridder and her friend Nastia Gustol opens a window.
The two run a social enterprise called Yusudi, which recruits fresh college and university graduates, trains them and links them up with potential employers.
The journey to founding the venture was, however, inspiring. In 2013, De Ridder was enjoying one of her long semester breaks when she decided to apply for internship to kill the free time.
She was lucky to get an opportunity at AIESEC, one of world’s largest organizations that offer interns and volunteers a platform to sharpen their skills and talents and eventually links them up with leading NGOs and companies.
Upon landing in Mexico- the country she was to take up internship- from her native Belgium, Charlotte met Nastia, a young Ukranian graduate who was also attached at the organization.
With time, their friendship grew stronger since they shared interests and had a common vision. AIESEC also not only invested on offering new skills but also gave students the opportunity to ‘try their new ideas, fail and eventually succeed.’
It is for the organization’s option to either intern, volunteer abroad or lead a team that the two friends, driven by their curiosity to travel, learn and explore diverse cultures, opted for the second choice. They volunteered abroad.
In 2015, AIESEC assigned Charlotte to Kenya for a consulting project where she interacted with many youths in the country. Their discussion revealed massive challenges.
“Graduates complained of struggling to get job opportunities. Youth unemployment was so high and many graduates lacked where to go,” she says, adding they had to remedy the crisis.
A year later, Charlotte and Nastia founded Yusudi, with the initials ‘Y’ for Youth and ‘Kusudi’ (Swahili word) for Purpose, in a bid to resonate to the target market.
However, like many other startups, Yusudi faced a rough start. Being new in the market and with limited networks, the entrepreneurs sought refuge at Ihub, an innovation hub for the technology community based in Nairobi, from where they trained staff, their first clients, while testing the venture’s market viability.
“Unlike the corporate world that is moneyed, we were coming into a new market with small personal savings, an idea and passion. It was like we were starting from zero, just the two of us tasked with doing everything,” Nastia explains.
But it was just a matter of time before their services could start receiving market nods. Gradually, staff grew and application letters trickled in as more graduates requested to be trained hence they had to move to a more spacious office.
From a startup with a cohort of 5 trainees, Yusudi now has 23, and has so far trained 123 graduates, most of who are currently employed.
The venture offers training and internship on life skills, which Nastia say enables employees accomplish their ambitions and live to their full potential in both personal and professional lives.
Before recruitment into the programs, an applicant is assessed to gauge their passion and commitment towards training.
The training then takes between 4 and 6 weeks where trainees are offered soft skills on all backgrounds across industries, and a career coach is engaged to help them ‘navigate a successful career path.’
Nastia says the internship-based training is suitable to those with interest in areas of sales, graphics design, and marketing and administration since the enterprise is able to offer support and placement in such fields with their partner SMEs and companies.
The training, she says, is intense and aimed at advancing trainees’ personal development and work based skills, this in a bid to enable them understand their values, what they are good at and those that require improvement are ultimately helped to identify them and work on creating a career.
“We manage to get employment opportunities to most of our trainees since we do get special field requests from time to time and ensure to advertise the same as we encourage applications,” she says.
However, to ensure commitment to the program, the enterprise charges a training fee of Ksh2500 (US$25) for the period of 4 weeks and Ksh 1750(US$17.5) for 6 weeks, costs that also cover the investment Yusudi does in its trainees during training, internship search, allocation and support provided during internships, as well as further career coaching.
On the other hand, employers seeking to take on yusudi interns have the option to either have a person with the needs background who is already trained or commission the enterprise to hire and train a person specifically for the job they specify.
The entrepreneurs say they bank on the market trust they have created supplying qualified staff to companies, and hope to improve in a bid to remedy youth unemployment.