Posted on 28 Feb 18 in Sierra Leone

For young people, getting a job and that first step on the career ladder is very challenging and highly competitive. Imagine being a young person, whose education was severely impacted by conflict in your country; meaning that you had little or no way of gaining an education and a chance to further yourself in life. Then imagine becoming an adult and being expected to contribute to your family and the household income. For young people in Sierra Leone, this is the reality that they face; how to gain skills and bring in a respectable livelihood for their families; having had little or no education.

Apprenticeship opportunities in Sierra Leone

Our Livelihoods for Young People project is giving hope to these young people in Sierra Leone as we provide training and opportunities for them to thrive in life. The project’s focus is on giving young people the chance to learn (and earn) from a trade, through apprenticeships in areas such as motor mechanics, metal work, hospitality, hairdressing, tailoring and dress making.

Our work is essential as from 1991 until 2002 Sierra Leone was in the midst of Civil War, meaning that many young people missed out on gaining an education, leaving them without skills and a chance of making a living for themselves, with no way to support their families.

As with many of us in the UK; there is a lot of pride surrounding having an education and having a good job in Sierra Leone and with the help of our local partners, we are ensuring that these young people gain access to an education and training.

In our latest blog, we’re focusing on some of our wonderful apprentices who have not only shown commitment to their training, but ambition for the future and even inspired younger siblings too.

Meet Bama, Moimo, Fumba and Seaku

The team of four finished their Mechanics Apprenticeship in May 2017, after 2 years training with their artisan (trainer).

Just a month after their training ended the young men had the devastating news that their owner was packing up as the garage they worked in was due to be knocked down and they had to move. Their artisan decided to move away from where the garage was at the time. However, determined to stay in their local area and continue to serve their existing customers the apprentices looked for a suitable location close to their old garage, for their own business.

From disaster, there was hope

Our smart and forward thinking apprentices had been saving every week during their training to help them afford their own place further down the line. Despite hoping that they would have more time and be able to save more after completing their training, what they had saved – SLL1.5 million (just over £750) was enough to relocate to a garage of their own and have some left over.

With a new business, they needed staff; having built friendships with other apprentices on the course, including some at the same garage they’d trained at, the apprentices did not need to worry about this at all, as others already working at the garage did not want to move with.

Currently, the young men employ 13 staff in all; including five apprentices of their own who they are training themselves and ensuring that they help the next generation gain skills. They are immensely proud of this.

“We’re giving our time to give other young people the skills we were fortunate enough to learn.”

When we visited them, the young men spoke about their pride at having gained a skill that will enable them to earn for life, so that they won’t have to rely on their families and the farm for their income. Through their training they have instead been able to support their families, enabling young brothers and sisters to go to school; they have a sustainable income which means they can afford a home of their own and can support their own families and afford regular meals as well.

Their business proved essential to the survival of the local area and not long after opening, the former apprentices were approached by  local UNICEF workers to take on the contract for fixing and maintaining all their motorbikes. An essential and highly trustworthy job as the workers travel for miles and need well maintained and reliable bikes to do their roles. Of course, the young men have other contracts and do other jobs for local people to, however, this is, for them at least, their proudest achievement to date.

However, the young men they’re training aren’t the only people they’ve inspired, as Briama’s own brother has become very interested in what his big brother is doing and wants to follow in his footsteps one day. Seeing as he’s only 5, he’s got some time to wait, but knowing his brother’s passion to train others, it is almost certain he’ll get his wish.

These young men are part of our Livelihoods for Young People project in Sierra Leone, the project is training some 1,200 young people in a wide range of skills, as part of a project committed to ensuring that the country’s youth have skills and are able to gain employment. As a way to discourage their involvement and feared interest in conflict and rebel actives.

At Action on Poverty, we’re immensely proud of our projects and our commitment to change the lives of young people in Sierra Leone, by giving them skills and the opportunity to learn and earn.