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Youth @ Work

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The Youth@Work project gives vulnerable young Kenyans a future in the tourism and hospitality industries. For Ujima, innovating and reaching out means maintaining structured, well-organized relations with a range of stakeholders. Current trainees benefit from the expertise of guest lecturers and alumni, while alumni attend refresher courses and team-building events. Employers are seen as partners in every step of the process. How does this investment in stakeholder relations contribute to better courses and training?

Key words:

  • Employability training
  • Hospitality
  • Entrepreneurship
  • ICT
  • Job-hunting

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Through the following activities, Ujima keeps adapting the project to labour market needs:

  • Stakeholder meetings.
  • Alumni meetings and feedback.
  • Refresher courses for beneficiaries and trainers.
  • Recording/acting upon issues arising from the feedback received. For instance, Ujima included ICT training as a result of feedback from employers. They suggested that ICT should be integrated into the training, as it is a crucial component for front-office trainees during their work placements. The Ujima stakeholders’ meeting also suggested including entrepreneurship training, since some of the trainees are already running their own small businesses.


  • Stakeholder meetings: Stenden University, PUM, hotel managers, supervisors and owners, other training institutes, mentors, trainers and social workers.
  • Alumni meetings: former Youth@Work students, trainees, trainers and social workers.
  • Refresher courses: Kenya Utalii College, Youth@Work trainees, trainers and social workers.
  • Issues arising: Youth@Work partners, trainers and volunteers.

Students are reached through social media, telephone calls, workplace visits, the alumni conference and employers’ files and records.
Employers are seen as partners throughout the process. As well as supplying quality staff, Ujima enables them to practise corporate social responsibility.

Ujima targets orphaned youngsters who have lost their parents and have taken responsibility for caring for their siblings. These youngsters often drop out of school due to lack of money for school fees. If Ujima does not intervene, these youngsters are likely to end up in early marriages, prostitution, illegal gangs and engage in destructive lifestyles in order to support themselves and the children in their care. Ujima targets the eldest child in these families (head of the household), and trains them for employment so that they can take care of themselves and the children in their care. Through their economic empowerment, they can make informed decisions and direct their own lives.

Once these orphaned youngsters have been trained, we link them with the job market. Employers thus not only receive qualified students, but they also feel part of the process of alleviating poverty and empowering those who would otherwise be the most needy in society. For them, this is a form of corporate social responsibility.


  • Time: meetings (with employers once per year, with mentors at least three times a year, with alumni once a year, alumni team-building once per year).
  • Financial: meetings, travel and communication, training. A rough estimate of these costs is €3,459 per year, amounting to ca. €14.40 per student.
  • Materials: facilitation materials (e.g., LCD screen, other material for the facilitation of conferences, transportation and accommodation costs).
  • Knowledge: expertise on emerging trends and curricular development. For instance, the need for more expert chefs in the county (number of chefs is falling), slump in the tourism business due to insecurity in Kenya, new regulations on checking-in guests as a result of worldwide terror threats, emergence of new high-end hotels in the region (Kisumu and Nakuru).


  1. Meetings with employers to discuss the effectiveness of Ujima trainees led to the inclusion of computer training in the employability training programme.
  2. Alumni feedback on Ujima’s training led to greater emphasis on the practical aspects of training.
  3. Since some of the trainees are running their own businesses, the stakeholders suggested introducing entrepreneurship training.
  4. Guest speakers were invited to give short lectures to students.
  5. After engaging the student alumni, we realized that it would greatly benefit the new students if every intake were addressed by a former student. Former students now give short lectures on their experiences to every intake.

Lessons learned

  • The following worked really well:
  • Involving student alumni in innovation and outreach; for instance, some of the alumni have been recruited as mentors to current students. The alumni have first-hand experience of the training as well as its application in the job market. The alumni have become a source of information about emerging issues in the job market. Having a clear link with alumni helps Ujima to adjust and keep up to date with issues in the job market.
  • Partnering with other TVETs and learning from them. We learned about setting up an entrepreneurship curriculum and ICT training. Through partnership with Stenden University, we developed a practical training programme.
  • Working closely with the labour market (Ujima employs a full-time job-hunter to foster this relationship).


  • Involve a curricular expert, if possible, who can draw on their experience and act as a good reference.
  • To ensure stakeholder commitment, set up contracts and agreements for partnerships and keep stakeholders updated on progress. Ujima holds employers’ meetings at least once a year, mentors and guardians’ meetings at least thrice a year and other stakeholders’ meetings once a year. This helps us to update all stakeholders and ensures commitment from them.
  • Hold regular visits and organize structured meetings and conferences (once a year, communicated well in advance).

Project sheet Ujima


From unemployed to waitress, restaurant or hotel manager; Youth@Work provides a future to vulnerable Kenyan youth.

Short facts
Sector: Tourism and hospitality
Lead partner: Ujima Foundation for Training and Development
Overall budget for the project: € 514,011
Learn4Work contribution: € 174,664
Partner contribution: € 339,347
Implementation period: January 2014- December 2016

Struggling Orphans

Feeding your siblings while you have not learned a trade and are struggling to find a steady job is difficult. Yet it is the reality of everyday life of orphaned youth in Kenya. Nakuru and Kisumu are touristy areas with a lot of potential, but it is remarkably challenging for hotels and restaurants to find qualified staff. Both problems could be solved if these orphans were trained on useful deployable skills. With a sustained income they could afford to buy healthy food for their brothers and sisters. And if they were trained on skills like a service-minded attitude, good communication and time management, employers from hotels, lodges and restaurant would hire them. This is where the Youth@Work project comes in.

Useful Skills

Youth@Work supports the development of good quality vocational training on hospitality and tourism. The project targets 720 orphaned youth (252 male and 486 female) aged 18-24 and their 2160 siblings. Lead partner Ujima Foundation has established links with over 100 employers in Kisumu and Nakuru. The foundation also has two training lodges of its own. In these different work environments trainees gain practical experience in the hospitality business. They can make mistakes, learn from it and develop themselves. After finishing the training at least 80% of the graduates is expected to find a job easily, which would of course be a great accomplishment. To enhance the success and prevent dropouts, the trainees are also attached to a mentor, a working parent who coaches them on how to balance work with family life. One of the topics discussed is cooking nutritious and balanced meals for their family members.

Improved Training

Based on their experiences with trainees, the local employers share their recommendations on the content of the vocational education with the training institution. For example in 2013, hotel managers recommended that Ujima foundation include practical trainings especially in food production and front office to enhance their skills prior to joining the hotel industry for their industrial exposure. This has been included in the training programme. Through this constant feedback, the programme prepares the graduates to have the exact set of skills needed to work in tourism and hospitality in the area. Entrepreneurial skills are also added to the curriculum so trainees can start their own business too. The training centre itself becomes more and more professional as well. Over the course of the project the training courses will be certified and officially recognised nationwide. This positively influences the hospitality standards in Kenya.

Public Private Partnership

During the project cycle lead partner Ujima Foundation slowly moves from being an NGO paid by donors to an official hospitality and tourism training centre. By the end of the project the trainings should be accredited and therefore part of the Kenyan vocational education system. The Dutch manager deployment programme PUM will contribute to this process. Together with the local private sector their senior experts will work on making the vocational trainings responsive to the local economic needs.

Wanted: Dutch Hotel School

To optimize learning, Ujima is still looking for a Dutch vocational institution (‘Hotel School’) to establish exchange programs. This offers fresh inputs and ideas to the programme from students who can easily link with and learn from their Kenyan peers. Youth@Work therefore encourages schools in the Netherlands to join this fruitful partnership.

Other Contributing Partners:

Milele resort, Milimani Resort, Kisumu, Lake Nakuru Flamingo Lodge, Tejchevé Foundation

Ujima Foundation

PO Box 800
Nehru road, Milimani estate, Kisumu city 40123
Email: office[at]
Contact: Mr Charles John Odhiambo

Stenden University of Applied Sciences

Email: info[at]
Contact: Mrs Monique Medema and Mr Graig Thomson

Lake Nakuru Flamingo Lodge

Email: info[at]
Contact: Mr Edwin Maliatso

Stichting Foundation Tejchevé

Website: –
Email: mechtild[at]
Contact: Mrs Mechtild van den Hombergh

PUM Netherlands Senior Experts

Email: info[at]
Contact: Mr Norbert Enschot

Milimani Resort

Website: –
Email: info[at]
Contact: Mr Thomas Ojowi

Milele Resort

Email: info[at]
Contact: Mr David Njuki