“I’ve become more confident”: the plumbing course that offers a whole lot more

A young person wearing overalls and boots © Frontline AIDS/Peter Caton/READY/2019
Young people are acquiring new skills to find and create new employment opportunities.

How vocational courses are helping vulnerable young people in Mozambique and Zimbabwe increase their employability, health and well-being.

When Kenneth Zacarias from Beira in Mozambique began a Skills2Live plumbing course he did not know where it would take him.

Kenneth is one of hundreds of vulnerable young people from Mozambique and Zimbabwe who are receiving vocational training in subjects such as plumbing, mechanics, sewing and cooking alongside sessions on entrepreneurship, life-skills and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

“The training helped me so much,” he says. “I gained knowledge about plumbing, I acquired more knowledge about other courses and made friendships.

“I’ve become more confident… before, when I went to school, I could not understand anything. Since I enrolled on Skills2live programme I feel I’ve become more intelligent.”

Building opportunities

Skills2Live participants are young people who are struggling to find work, a situation that can affect their mental health and well-being and increase their vulnerability to HIV and poor sexual and reproductive health. Many participants have not completed school and do not have the qualifications or training to meet job requirements.

“Young people are…looking for a job but there is a lack of opportunity,” explains Kenneth. “Many young people would like to have a job… but in my community, there are no such opportunities.”

The Skills2Live courses run for three months and are taught by local business owners and entrepreneurs. A three-month internship is offered on completion of the courses so students can put their newfound skills into practice and further increase their employability.

No gender emphasis is placed on the courses on offer. This enables participants to take the course that is of most interest and use to them, challenging gender stereotypes in the process.

“Women are always there with us…there’s no man on one side or woman on the other side, there is equality in the choice of courses,” says Kenneth. “We all work together, and I even see women…who are very strong in relation to me.”

Reducing vulnerabilities

Each Skills2Live has a Wellness Centre attached to it. This is a youth-friendly safe space staffed by health providers and Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS); young people living with HIV who are part of Frontline AIDS’ READY movement.

The CATS provide Skills2Live participants with information, support and counselling on SRHR and HIV, and will also signpost and refer participants to other youth-friendly SRHR and HIV services, support groups and health facilities.

In addition, SRHR issues are covered in life-skills sessions taught by course tutors. Subjects discussed include STIs, HIV, condom use, sexuality, relationships, family planning and pregnancy.

“I learned more about HIV and AIDS,” says Kenneth. “It was very useful for me because I gained experience and more information about how [the] body works.”

Getting back on track

The COVID-19 lockdown resulted in Skills2Live training and wellness centres temporarily closing, disrupting training courses and internships. Wellness Centre staff continued to offer HIV, SRHR and life-skills sessions online but say it is difficult to reach all those enrolled as some do not have access to the internet or smartphones.

Kenneth had finished his training before lockdown began and had been in the process of showing local plumbers his new skills and experience, something that should give him an advantage when the job market picks up again.

“The only way to deal with COVID-19 is prevention, which I have been doing,” says Kenneth. “Before I could do some works with my partners and now it [has] slowed down and it is difficult.

“I intend to develop more and move on…I want to learn more. Ten years from now I see myself as an entrepreneur…I also want to teach other people.

“I would like other people to have this opportunity for training and work. Very many young people do not have a job and need these opportunities.”

Skills2Live is part of the READY movement. It is organised by Young Africa International, Young Africa Zimbabwe, Young Africa Mozambique, Frontline AIDS, IdeiaLab, and International Organization of Migration (IOM), with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Mozambique.


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