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The NetHope Academy Internship Program Implementation Guide

This NetHope-led collaboration between government and non-government agencies, leading tech companies, and the local community illustrates that cross-sector partnerships can result in sustainable new businesses models.

Part 1: Overview

The NetHope Academy Internship Program was initiated in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The primary need at the time was to provide talented IT resources to NetHope member NGOs who were working in the region and had a dire need for additional technical support in the aftermath of this crisis. NetHope provided technical training, soft skills training, and on-the-job training via internships at host organizations. While many of the host organizations have been NetHope members, many are not. Banks, Internet Service Providers, Mobile Network Operators, other large companies, consulting firms, technology vendors, and various government programs have hosted interns and, in turn, offered them full-time positions.    

After the initial success in Haiti, NetHope was awarded funding from the Accenture Foundation to scale the program in sub-Saharan Africa and successively launched programs in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, India, Egypt, and Liberia.

The goal is for graduates to find employment (including entrepreneurship) within 90 days of completing the NetHope Academy Internship Program and for employers to have access to entry level IT professionals who have received that extra bit of polish between their formal education and their first job.

Note: For comprehensive, detailed information about this program, please reference “The NetHope Academy Internship Program Playbook” in the Supplemental Documents section.

Part 2: What happened?

The NetHope Academy Internship Program has trained over 1,300 students to date with an over 80 percent job placement rate. Approximately 40 percent of program participants have been young women. Most students have also earned a technical certification, with many of them earning more than one. 

We quickly learned how different the existing IT ecosystem and landscape were in each geography, which caused slight variations in the above statistics in each region. What remained the same, however, was the feedback from the employers that the current academic institutions weren’t producing the “job-ready” graduates they were seeking. Because of this, there continues to be a demand for this high-touch, high-impact program. It requires significant effort to secure internships and full-time jobs. Often, the employment market is challenging, and we have seen the program slow in areas where it was once thriving (i.e., Haiti) due to local economic factors beyond our control.

Part 3: Replication

Given the existing set of assets and current availability of in-kind donations and funding, the NetHope Academy Internship Program is best suited for the following:

  1. Implementation with existing NetHope partners in countries where sustainable programs are running (Haiti and Rwanda)
  2. Implementation during or after a crisis (i.e., Liberia after the West Africa Ebola outbreak)
  3. Implementation with very strong local implementing partners who are already doing similar work and have significant funding (i.e., Anudip Foundation for Social Welfare in India, other non-profit organizations specializing in job placement training, academic institutions that want to build upon current offerings to students and local employers such as ESIH in Haiti or Starz College of Science and Technology in Liberia)

Part 4: The problem

The global population boom has created unprecedented challenges for educated youth in developing countries to effectively engage in the workforce. At the same time, a serious shortage of qualified IT professionals in these regions is limiting local companies, governments, and NGOs from expanding and functioning at their highest potential in the world economy. This deficit becomes even more pronounced during and after a crisis such as the West Africa Ebola outbreak. IT skills are in high demand, generating opportunities for youth to participate in core aspects of the economy — if they can acquire real-world vocational skills and the relevant work experience to make them employable.

The NetHope Academy Internship Program bridges the gap between unemployed, educated youth and the market-driven IT needs and opportunities in developing regions. The program is built on best practices developed from capacity-building efforts in Africa, India, and Haiti.

Part 5: Project approach/solution

In its approach to program design, NetHope conducted an extensive landscape analysis, interviewing experts in the local focus countries, representing academic institutions, employers, tech sector leaders, students, NetHope’s own tech sector partners, Accenture Development Partnerships, and NetHope members.

The specific approach was selected for the following attributes:

  • Delivers 21st century training and IT skills that are market-relevant, practical, and transferable; · Provides internships and mentoring support for college-age youth to effectively transition from school to work, and succeed in the workplace;
  • Strengthens IT capacity of in-country INGOs and their field offices; and
  • Bolsters the local workforce of skilled/certified IT professionals in developing regions.

Working in partnership with local organizations and educational institutions, the NetHope Academy Internship Program connects young, computer-literate, near and recent University or technical college graduates with opportunities to gain professional job skills and experience through internships at local NGOs and corporations. In addition to technical and soft skills training, interns receive daily mentoring, ongoing evaluation, job placement assistance, and outplacement support.

Part 6: Who was involved?

Building local capacity is a foundational principle of NetHope field programs. Working with local implementing partners is key to the NetHope Academy Internship Program operating model. In some locations, we were very hands-on and in others, the local implementing partner did not need as much support given their deep experience and relationships with the local ecosystem. A NetHope representative went on the initial fact-finding and implementing partner recruiting trips in each geography and conducted the detailed follow-up work to ensure the partnership was forged and was successful. Our local implementing partners included:

  • Haiti – Ecole Supérieure d'Infotronique d'HAïti (ESIH)
  • Kenya – The African Centre for Women, Information, and Communications Technology (ACWICT)
  • Rwanda – Kevine Bajaneza (now N@tcom Services)
  • South Africa – Microsoft Student 2 Business Program
  • India – Anudip Foundation for Social Welfare
  • Egypt – Education for Employment Egypt (EFE)
  • Liberia – Starz College of Science and Technology
  • Kenya, Rwanda, and Ghana entrepreneurship collaboration – Enablis 

Part 7: Key personnel

Local Implementing Partners – includes in-country Program Directors, Leadership, and Support Staff who run the day-to-day aspects of the program, from recruitment to training to placement to M&E

NetHope Academy Internship Program Manager – manages the overall program and partnerships, facilitates the onboarding of new partners and countries, trains in-country team, works with in-country government, employers and technology partners to build local program, coordinates partnerships with tech partners, manages internal NetHope Academy Internship Program team, manages donor communications/reporting

NetHope Senior Leadership – provides program oversight, participates in initial visits to secure implementing partners

Trainers – locally based experts are responsible for technical and soft skills training sessions

Mentors at Host Employer Organizations – advise interns throughout the internship period; every young employee (and intern) needs a “coach” in the organization who will take an active interest in their professional development

Accenture Development Partnerships Team – used during inception and initial scale of program to Africa

  • Program Manager – performed above program manager activities prior to NetHope hiring a Program Manager and managed ADP team
  • Learning Manager/Subject Matter Expert – developed learning objectives, curriculum, Learning Management System (LMS) vendor analysis, and LMS setup)
  • Database Consultant – created KPIs, responsible for database design and implementation
  • Financial Services Experts – senior manager and strategy consultant developed the student loan program and conducted all outreach with local Monetary Financial Institutions in Kenya

Part 8: Project timeline

Please reference the detailed timelines and project plans in the “NetHope Academy Internship Program Playbook.” Note: phases and milestones varied slightly for each country; and thanks to experience and a fully developed suite of assets ready for use, NetHope has been able to accelerate the launch speed for the NetHope Academy Internship Program. For example, launching the most recent program in Liberia, only took about 4-5 months as compared to one year in earlier launches.

The process is faster when NetHope is working with an institution that already has similar programs and/or relationships with employers in place. It can take several weeks/months longer if this is not the case or if the implementing partner is encumbered by a full workload with other programs, has gaps in staff, or confronts other competing priorities.

High-level, generic timeline shows one program/country example that is representative.

Part 9: Project budget

A sample budget for a program with an established local implementing partner might look something like this estimate:

Personnel (staff, trainers, etc.) – Global Program Management 10 percent and In-Country Program Management and Training 40 percent

Travel – 5 percent

Program admin – 15 percent

Educational materials – LMS licenses, course content, certification exam vouchers – 30 percent

Part 10: Evaluation framework

Key measurements for the success of the NetHope Academy Internship Program were tied to actual outcomes, including:

  • Percent of graduates employed or becoming an entrepreneur within 90 days of completing the program completion; targeted 80 percent
  • Percent of female participants in the program; targeted 20 percent
  • Percent of others who have been historically “disadvantaged” (disabled, impacted by Ebola, natives of rural areas, etc.) in the IT sector in the regions in which we run the program (Note: it was more difficult to track who was “disadvantaged,” as many of our students come from quite poor backgrounds and we didn’t have strict assessment criteria for this outcome)

Part 11: Results

A comprehensive, detailed list of lessons learned can be found in “The NetHope Academy Internship Program Playbook” in the Supplemental Documents section.

Key critical success factors include:

  • Identify NetHope’s unique value and contribution. Many skills capacity-building organizations (i.e., EFE) have a much larger and dedicated staff in place to run a high-caliber youth training program – both in- country and at HQ. Here NetHope’s unique value was to provide our expertise in the IT training and job placement area. Additionally, original technology partners, including Microsoft and Cisco, now have their own mature CSR/IT job placement opportunities and have streamlined their efforts to build upon those programs. The key is to always ask where NetHope’s (or your organization’s) unique value-add is and if/how it fills a gap in the market.
  • Select an outstanding implementation partner. To run a successful program, a well-established and competent local implementing partner is critical; without a quality partner, one capable of running and sustaining the program, it should not be implemented. The partner must have existing, solid connections with local employers, recruiting firms, and government agencies to provide a solid pipeline of opportunities for program participants. In addition, the partner must have the capacity to build the program and be willing to march down a path towards sustainably operating the program (i.e., charging a fee to students).
  • Student investment. Students must have some “skin in the game.” Don’t start the program as free – or be very clear that it will be free only for the first class. Work with financial institutions that have student loan programs – do not try to manage this payment process. This is key to program sustainability.
  • Employer relationship-building. Significant effort must be put into finding and securing internships, building relationships with employers, and working to assist program participants in finding full-time employment.
  • Combination of high-tech and high-touch. Online training alone isn’t enough to move the needle. Students need face-to-face contact and in-person mentoring to reinforce and support the consistently updated technical offerings. The same goes for all of the employer partners – despite being a technology-focused program, face-to-face sessions and on-site visits are critical to successful client relationships.
  • Know the competing programs in the market. In Egypt, NetHope learned (after launching with a partner there) that most large employers already get top ICT graduates via a different government-sponsored program that provides much more specialized and in-depth training than the NetHope Academy Internship Program. In contrast, in Rwanda, NetHope worked directly with a similar government-run program to address an unmet need in the IT training space.
  • Changing market conditions. Markets saturate. Even when there is a need for qualified ICT experts, it is difficult for junior IT professionals to find employment at times. In some countries, it is challenging to place 40-80 students a year, while in South Africa and India, the market can easily absorb hundreds of graduates in the same time frame.
  • Foster future networking and collaboration. Interns created a Skype group with classmates to stay in touch and ask questions during their internships, as well as their own Facebook pages. Post-graduation many have continued this and graduates are key to recruiting top candidates for future classes.
  • Quality is expensive. A high-touch program like the NetHope Academy Internship Program is expensive. Providing the kind of instruction and mentorship that an unemployed youth needs is time-consuming and costly. Many “learning to earning” development programs promote reaching hundreds of thousands of youth with interventions that cost less than $50 per person.

Part 12: Next steps

NetHope is positioned to run various iterations of the NetHope Academy Internship Program based on our existing assets and partner relationships. Given the changing landscape, our focus in recent years has been in locations where our NGO partners need IT resources to respond to emergencies (i.e., the West Africa Ebola crisis). The Academy continues to sustain operations in Rwanda, Haiti, and India, whereas partnerships in Kenya, Egypt, and South Africa have ramped down due to various reasons. Correspondingly, our program and educational content is evolving with the market.

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