Breaking into the international job market is becoming increasingly difficult for young school, college and university leavers. Many young people are leaving education without the fully developed skills and experience required to secure their dream job. Here at Challenges Worldwide we are aware of this struggle but recognise and value the raw talent, fresh ideas, energy and enthusiasm that young people have to offer.
Over the past year Challenges Worldwide have been placing ICSE volunteers on 10 week, fully funded placements in Ghana, Uganda and Zambia where they work as junior business consultants in small to medium sized enterprises. Many of our volunteers have limited prior experience of working in businesses so to help them succeed in their placements all our volunteers go through a vocational course in business consulting from which they gain an internationally recognised qualification from the Chartered Management Institute. Entrusting these young people with such a challenging role and watching them produce real and measurable results for African businesses is testimony to the potential of young people in the UK and our three African host countries.
This weekend was ICSE Team Uganda’s returned volunteer weekend – a chance for the volunteers to reunite, debrief and share their incredible stories with us at Challenges Worldwide. I caught up with the team on Sunday to discuss the skills and experience they have gained through the structured and fully funded placements that Challenges ICSE provides.
To mark the first ever World Youth Skills Day we have compiled 5 case studies of Team Uganda volunteers and team leaders to present the skills they have developed and enhanced through their ICSE placements with Challenges Worldwide.
Uganda Team Leader
Skills: Leadership and public speaking
Anna was one of two team leaders offering practical and pastoral support to Team Uganda. She noted a massive improvement in her assertiveness and initiative. One of Anna’s roles as a team leader was to deliver a CMI qualification in professional consulting and to facilitate weekly team meetings. Anna clearly did a fantastic job of leading the team and helping them all grow and develop business management skills but she also learnt a lot through her own personal development. Initially Anna had little confidence and experience in public speaking but she really observed other speakers and began to deliver the qualification with a lot more confidence.
Business: LANIC Enterprises Ltd: Paper Factory
Skills: Leadership, adaptability, cross-cultural communication.
Amy’s placement was in a business producing handmade paper and paper products out of natural and local materials such as banana fibres. The products included paper sheets, notebooks, photo frames, photo albums, gift bags and carry bags. In her first couple of weeks at LANIC things were moving far slower than Amy expected. In an attempt to resolve this she took a heavy leadership role and found herself taking control of the business in order to speed things up. Although this initially increased the work rate in the business it was a frustrating role for Amy to play and she quickly realised that this approach was not sustainable in the long term. Upon realising this, Amy relaxed her leadership style which resulted in a far more relaxed, open and honest working environment the staff felt enthused to work in. At the end of her placement the LANIC Enterprises team was structured, cohesive and hardworking which was in part down to Amy’s ability to adapt quickly to the needs of the team and communicate effectively in a culture that is quite different to her own.
Skills: Planning, coordinating, problem solving and adaptability
During Sophie’s placement the business was looking to expand into a new market. In order to do so effectively the team were looking at researching into the new customer base to gain new information to market effectively. Initially the research project began in a disorganised fashion. Though they were gaining new, valuable information they were struggling to compile this information and really capitalise on it. Sophie took the initiative to spend one day away from implementing the research in order to design a structured research plan. Spending this one day planning resulted in the rest of the research proving far more efficient and valuable to the company. This research outline will continue to be used by the business after Sophie’s placement has ended.
Business: Volcano Coffee
Skills: Interpersonal skills – patience, tolerance, perseverance
Anna was working in a small, local coffee business. The organisation in her business was initially less than she had expected. Because of this she struggled to access the information needed for the completion of the tasks her and her partner had planned. While trying to complete the end of year financial report, it took over a week to receive the required information and figures from her boss. Anna used various tactics to improve the communication – she made an agenda for all meetings and structured detailed plans but still struggled to improve and speed up communication. Though some of this was a language and culture barrier, Amy persevered and persisted in a patient and tolerant way and in the end developed a great working relationship with her manager. They ended up accompanying the boss to many important meetings and banks etc to save the manager the extra workload of passing this information on to them in writing.
Business: Waste Masters Ltd.
Skills: Cross-cultural communication and management
Maddy’s was placed in a private waste management company which specialised in door-to-door household waste collection. It has plans in place to construct a recycling plant outside Kampala which will generate electricity through incinerating waste and contribute to their vision of a cleaner, greener Uganda. In her placement Maddy learned the importance of being open, honest and self-aware. At the beginning of her placement, her relationship with her Ugandan counterpart was not functioning as well as they had hoped. The main reasons for this was due to a language barrier and a lack of understanding of the different modes of communication in different cultures. Taking time to step back and understand why there were issues helped the pair to overcome this and in the end they fostered a warm and productive working relationship.
Business: Seven Seasons Foods
Skills: time management, creative problem solving, initiative and thinking outside the box.
Zac recognised early on in his placement that they weren’t going to get everything they wanted implemented done. Seven Seasons Foods is a banana juice and wine company which had few plans in place for the growth and development of the business. Using the skills learnt in their CMI qualification, Zac and his partner developed business plans that were both simple and specific to ensure that if they didn’t manage to implement what they wanted to, the business could follow these plans and implement them after they had left. They created 9 plans and implemented 2 in the 10 week placement. Seven seasons have continued to follow these plans and they are still in use today.
If you are looking for an opportunity to develop your skills and increase your employability in the international development and business sector, apply to be an ICSE volunteer or team leader here –