Skills development & employment of Deaf youth
Completion of higher education at any learning institution culminates in graduation: an eventful ceremony celebrated with lots of joy to mark a significant landmark of achievement for students, families, sponsors, well-wishers and teachers. The combined efforts of this dedicated team, working tirelessly to nurture, skill and impart diverse experiences to individuals, enables the shaping of productive citizens that forms our vital human resources.
In Uganda, unemployment among young people stands at 41% – a situation that is exacerbated for those who are deaf due to a harsh economic environment where they face discrimination and are subjected to systematically exclusion from the nation’s labour force. Despite years of investment in education, exceptionally talented deaf youth continue to experience attitudinal barriers that impede their progress. To tackle these problems, DLU identified business enterprise for its beneficiaries to undertake 6 months’ work placement. Bridging the gap from years of institutional learning, we incorporated Career Guidance – an initiative that leads into employment; supporting skills development and a smooth transition into the world of work. These experiences provide exposure and socio-economic empowerment for the youth to lead vibrant, productive and meaningful lives.
In 2023 two students were on work placement at various business locations in Kampala: having completed his diploma in Creative Graphic & Communication Design at Michelangelo College of Creative Arts (MCCA), Ismail Mutumba was placed with Amylia Homes; while Okurut James on completion of Industrial Training (Carpentry & Joinery) at Mbale School for the Deaf was placed with Sebius Furniture, a carpentry enterprise owned by an accomplished Deaf carpenter Ssebatta Julius and based in Salaama, Munyonyo. During DLU evaluation visits to beneficiaries at their placements, we noted with great delight the huge benefits of this initiatives on the individuals, their employers and the surrounding communities. Each one had gained tremendous knowledge and skills in the specific work areas. There was noted increase in personal growth: self- esteem, increased interaction, marketing skills, exposure and confidence to maneuver in complex business environments.
During our interactions, each individual was able to confirm that they had made significant improvements in a number of aspects including creativity, work balance, time management among others. We hope that through such exposure and hands on work experiences, deaf youth will acquire employable skills to compete in the job market.
However, there is still a long way to go as employers and the general public need to gain awareness and recognize Deaf people’s potentials. Uganda needs to go beyond the ordinary rhetoric of simply ‘talking’ about inclusive employment, yet failing to foster conducive working environments that appreciate and foster equal employment opportunities for all.
DLU is ready to offer technical support and orientation of deaf youth in mainstream business enterprises. Finally, we are indebted to employers who have taken on the youth, sharpening their skills. The experience has been two-way: benefitting employers as well and adding a unique aspect to their human resource, with gained skills in sign language, understanding and appreciation of our human diversity. Embracing a world where Deaf people are given opportunities to contribute to their communities and the world!