By Ishaku “Shak” Abner (YES 2009-2010, Nigeria, placed by IRIS in Coon Rapids, IA)
My name is Shak, and I was hosted in the small town of Coon Rapids, Iowa. My YES exchange year taught me not only the gift of giving back but also about the incredible joy you get out of giving back.
Upon returning home, my friends and I wanted to do something to help address youth unemployment in Nigeria. The skills needed for employability are low among young graduates. But during my work as a Content Writing facilitator with the Africa Development Bank Coding for Employment program, I noticed there was a lot of willingness on the part of youth to learn skills to boost employability and discover avenues for freelancing. This prompted my project team’s application for a 2021 YES Alumni Grant.
The SkillUp Gombe project took place at Gombe State University, providing 203 participants, ages 17 to 30, training in digital marketing, content writing, graphic design, and web design. The project used job-readiness tools to teach participants practical skills through a project-based approach. Participant diversity was important to our team, so out of the 203 participants, 92 were female and 19 were persons with disabilities.
The project’s facilitators were comprised of YES and other USG alumni and volunteers with vast knowledge and experience with the training topics, and who have worked in the freelance sector and thrived using platforms like UpWork and Freelancer.
In an exit survey, 98% of participants agreed that the project was useful to their immediate working environment as freelancers, and 89% answered in the affirmative when asked if they felt confident they could take on projects related to the skills learned during the training.
I want to thank staff at IRIS and American Councils for their mentorship and patience, as well as the U.S. Department of State for funding the YES Alumni Grants program so we could carry out this project. Many thanks to Gombe State University for providing the facilities for our participants during the project. A big thank you to Ebroxy and PlatHead for providing technical support. I also want to thank our team of volunteers from the USG alumni network in Gombe State for their selfless service to humanity.