Youth for Technology Foundation--YTF Academy
Youth for Technology Foundation--YTF Academy
YTF is an international nonprofit organization founded in 2000 to increase access to technology and education. Its innovative use of technology increases equity for women, girls, and youth in developing countries. YTF believes that access to technology and education should be a basic human right, and used to educate, fight poverty, solve critical problems, stimulate entrepreneurship, and create a generation of change leaders. YTF Academy’s underlying conviction is that not knowing the language of computers will be as challenging as being illiterate or innumerate today.
YTF’s work is planned and implemented in strong collaboration with grassroots, local, state, and national entities. YTF conducts outreach to and recruits marginalized, poor, hard-to-reach, in-school and out-of-school youth, and youth at risk for low-wage employment, vulnerable employment, and under-employment in Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda, Colombia, and the United States.
For 16 years, award-winning YTF has:
*graduated over 315,000 YTF Academy participants with 55% choosing technology-related fields
*increased STEM careers by 75%
*seen well over 90% make a successful transition to secondary school; 96% go on to higher education
*increased school academics by 40%
*inspired and developed over 12,000 entrepreneurial businesses (75% women-owned)
*trained over 1.6 million youth and women
*increased economic capacity in 3,880 communities
*a high job placement rate with students securing employment paying, on average, three times more in salaries
*100% of teachers trained promote technology as a communication and educational tool in their classrooms
YTF Academy has been replicated successfully throughout the world. YTF’s model of excellence includes 1) aligning innovative technology with needs facing youth, girls, and women, 2) integrating education, employability, and entrepreneurship with human-centered innovation design pedagogy, 3) use of the scientific inquiry or engineering design process with real-world scenarios, 4) use of mentors, virtual job shadowing and observation of engineers in action, expert speakers, 5) community level buy-in, awareness raising, effective capacity building strategies, collaboration, 6) sustaining local participation, 7) bringing corporate and philanthropic partners and volunteers resources to strengthen programs, 8) ongoing monitoring and evaluation activities for quality control, improvement, effectiveness, impact, 9) a focus on STEM education and employment.
YTF’s work is critical in many Sub-Saharan African countries as today’s youth are experiencing poor-quality primary-to-university education systems that do not prepare them for employment or entrepreneurship nor teach employability competencies and skills, keeping them in poverty. The out-of-school population is of serious concern in Sub-Saharan Africa. For example, one-fifth of the out-of-school population in Sub-Saharan Africa is in Nigeria—at 11.5 million out-of-school students, this is the highest in the world.
The number of youth is growing by leaps and bounds in Sub-Saharan Africa creating a “youth bulge” in which insufficient university slots and well-trained professors, jobs, and employment opportunities is serious for today’s youth. As an example, Uganda has the highest percent of youth ages 0-24 in the entire world (69.9%). This keeps youth at risk for low-wage employment, vulnerable employment, and under-employment.
Recent reports show that the labor market in Sub-Saharan Africa fails to guarantee sustainable livelihood opportunities to the majority of youth. Without innovative, non-formal education programs such as YTF, youth would be predominantly trapped in low-growth, low-innovation businesses that make use of older or no technology. YTF programs are needed to increase the number of youth completing secondary school, reduce the vast percentage of children involved in child labor, increase yet-untapped entrepreneurial sources of income, and allow each participant to realize their full potential.
A focus on STEM education and technology is critical in leveling the playing field for marginalized youth, girls, and women and results in sustainable income that eliminates poverty. Most Sub-Saharan Africa countries have made some progress in UNESCO education goals and have committed to make curriculum changes to reflect UNESCO education commitments, including the teaching of computer and technology skills, employability skills, and entrepreneurship.
YTF has been providing these educational recommendations with tremendous success. Its integrated approach to technology, STEM, and entrepreneurship cause youth to be highly engaged in needs-based, real-world problems—and to solve them. Through this approach, youth advance further in their education, stay or return to school, make the transitions to secondary school and to university, and graduate employment- or entrepreneur-ready. YTF Academy results in bringing equity to those marginalized in education.
The emergence of new technologies is changing society, the way we live, communicate, do business, and learn. YTF gives young people the foundation necessary to live, learn, and work in a global, digital age, compete with their global peers, and be the next generation of innovators.
New technologies bring new programs to YTF so that African youth can know about, understand, and participate in the global network and marketplaces to maximize their education, employment, and entrepreneurship. YTF’s newest YTF Academy program is 3D Africa which uses 3D printing technology and skills to solve critical problems and provide entrepreneurial business development and growth.
YTF programs are problem-based, teaching innovation processes by understanding and empathizing with community, individual, at-risk peoples, and social needs and issues. By using real-world scenarios, YTF teaches participants to ask the right questions in design thinking and design processes. Solutions often fail because wrong questions were asked by design teams—real-world, problem-based learning teaches teams of youth to ask right questions based on real data, real people, real situations, real barriers.
Sub-Saharan Africa has skipped traditional forms of communication (e.g., landline phones, dial-up Internet access)—many countries now have 100% wireless coverage and the same rate of cell phone ownership as the U.S. Employability and entrepreneurship opportunities abound through yet untapped global online markets. YTF’s newest YTF Academy program, 3D Africa, connects participants to new markets, new entrepreneurial strategies, and product development sufficient to control their income, reduce poverty, and bring sustainable employment to their community. It has the potential to change the economic landscape from ‘Aid to Africa’ to ‘Made in Africa’. YTF does not believe there are other similar actors in the field providing the same service.
Youth attain leading-edge education, employability competencies, and entrepreneurial skills that leap-frogs them past experiences—becoming leaders through new technologies. 3DAfrica creates new, sustainable sources of income, teaches entrepreneurship and in-demand employability skills so youth retain control of income, aren’t leaving home for money, and, have ownership of their health and well-being. Participants are trained to be peer leaders for other youth.
YTF ensures its sustainable development through:
*intentional corporate and philanthropic partnerships as each program is being developed
*its approach to local involvement
*ongoing community capacity-building and collaboration
*involving such systems as schools and universities in program implementation and dissemination
*use of monitoring and evaluation to ensure effectiveness, quality, and impact
*use of the social franchise model
*professional writing and speaking engagements
*dissemination of program activities
YTF charges a modest enrollment fee; however, in situations where participants have no means to pay the enrollment fee, YTF provides a volunteer scholarship. Recipients devote 3-5 hours per week to community service projects, mentor other YTF participants, or earn an internship opportunity at a local business upon graduation.
YTF has increased its revenue and its corporate and private partnerships each year of existence and, as such, has achieved a degree of financial self-sustainability. YTF begins, maintains, and continues each program and project with collaborative, mutually-beneficial partnerships. Throughout each project, YTF and its partners maintain awareness, ongoing outreach, and progress through media, blogs, radio and TV segments, newspapers, websites, and emails.
Corporate partners provide many opportunities to sustain programs through the use of on-site or virtual mentors, use of client scenarios in problem-solving, observation of corporate design teams in action, and job-shadowing. Many of these partners have employee matching gift programs based on volunteer hours that provides some revenue. Additionally, corporate partners frequently invite YTF blogs and support donation fundraising campaigns. Because YTF works in many rural settings, it provides extensive opportunities for corporate volunteers to participate by virtual means throughout the world.
YTF continuously seeks funding partnerships, grants, and donations. YTF Academy was first developed in partnership with Microsoft (funding, software), HP (hardware), and Imo State Government (in-kind donations of building, vehicle, host). Since then, partnerships include Intel, Cisco, Google, 3D Systems, Autodesk, MasterCard, and Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech). In addition, YTF is a Clinton Global Initiative member.
Future developments include the continuation of these activities as well as developing more extensive online fundraising activities in collaboration with YTF partners.