By Mosa Mojonothoane
Local youth in the design and build industry have found pardon in the In Loco Fellowship as youth unemployment rate remains at 37.44% in Lesotho since 2021.
In Loco Fellowship is a programme under Relationships Inspiring Social Enterprise (Rise) International Lesotho, which seeks to enable opportunities through innovative and unique approaches to the architectural and construction workshop with a focus on capacity-building, cooperation and development.
The programme started in Lesotho with the first cohort in 2018.
Rise International Project Coordinator Tšepo Sithole revealed that the programme is a design, build and entrepreneurship initiative for graduates in the build industry. He said the main objective of the fellowship is to afford the graduates hands-on practical lessons by working on projects for vulnerable communities’ development. “They are meant to start their own businesses after the fellowship, it could be in any industry that can create more jobs for other youth,” he said, further explaining that the fellows go through a three-year incubation programme post the fellowship, which connects them to mentors and potential clients among other benefits.
Among the greatest impacts that the organization has had through the fellowship programme is the second, bigger children’s home for God’s Love Children Centre at Sekamaneng, through which 12 adolescents who previously lived in an overcrowded orphanage received a spacious new residential home and social enterprise centre. This was done by the first cohort.
Through the second cohort, the In Loco Fellowship was able to build a wood structure for Intellectual Disability Association of Lesotho (IDAL), in partnership with IDAL members, where children with intellectual disabilities have access to a free and safe environment for learning and for daycare. Over 200 people with intellectual disabilities and Autism now have access to an education and health social enterprise centre through this initiative. This is according to the Rise International evaluation report 2020-2021.
This was followed by another capacity-building and development project for Lesotho National Federation of Organisations for the Disabled (LNFOD) which built a headquarters for this organization. The report further reveals that 15 employees have now been added as the federation is now able to employ people in wheelchairs since their headquarters is now accessible for people with all disabilities. The fellows also have a hall for hire on this premises, which is part of their own entrepreneurial ventures inspired by the fellowship.
“All of these projects have been very impactful to our target communities bearing in mind that they were meant to answer to their most dire needs. I can say throughout the projects, the impact is deep rather than broad. Most importantly, the impact could be seen in our unique approaches which in essence strive to also solve environmental problems by using materials that do not harm the environment. That way there is a lot of learning and a lot of impact that the fellows get to make through the In Loco Fellowship,” Sithole informed.
Speaking in an interview with Informative Newspaper, Rise International’s Construction and Design Coordinator and an Architectural Technician by profession Thato Nkikana, who is also the In Loco alumnus, explained that the fellowship is a learning-by-doing program aimed at changing the mindset of young graduates from job seekers to job creators.
“We do this by recruiting young graduates from the build environment including but not limited to architecture, construction management, electrical installation, plumbing, quantity surveying and bricklaying. The program takes six to 12 months during which the fellows work on design and construction of a particular project. We build the capacity by skills sharing and providing design and construction modules and business training. Because the aim is to groom young, successful entrepreneurs, we assess the personal development of the fellows using five key values namely; Effective communication, Initiative, Critical thinking, Team playing and Innovation,” she said.
Nkikana also shared that their lives have improved a lot because they have been able to create jobs for themselves and for other community members through skills learned here. Also, according to the report, through a variety of built environment disciplines ranging from architects, engineers, construction managers, plumbers, carpenters, etc., the fellows are able to establish a wide professional network, which is integral to the growth of budding entrepreneurs once they complete the fellowship.
“In 2020 recruiting was on the basis of quality rather than quantity, this proved effective in the caliber of fellows recruited and in the overall management of the program. Which led to more females joining the fellowship, thus the 2020 cohort was the dawn of a new era with more female than male fellows, which is impressive in a male dominated sector. However, the 2020 cohort had a higher than usual dropout rate especially among the female fellows and this was mainly due to family pressures preventing them from being able to dedicate themselves fully to the fellowship. Risecontinues to actively encourage more women to enter the Built Environment sector,” reads the report in pertinent part.
To date, the fellowship has had 43 graduates, 93% of which are in self or full-time employment and have had 43% income increase while a total of 160 jobs have been created by the fellows.
The In Loco alumnus also encouraged youth to join fellowships like this and invest time in volunteerism in order to upskill and get the necessary experience, exposure and the right networking. “In short, the fellowship does not give a man fish, it teaches a man how to fish. Apart from this, there are a lot of untapped job opportunities for individuals in the build environment if we really focus on job-creating than job-seeking,” she said.
For the upcoming fellowship, the applications will be opened before the end of January 2023 and the maximum intake is 15 fellows per cohort. Youth are urged to keep an eye on Rise International’s website for a call for applications.
She said they have now opened opportunities for other industries through the Research and Innovation program focusing on ways to mitigate challenges imposed by climate change. Again, through an upcoming project on the construction of an Entreprise Hub, Rise International hopes to capacitate a larger number of youth coming from all sectors.
Meanwhile, Sithole informed that they have prioritized on the build industry because they identified a need for an infrastructural touch in Lesotho. He said, “Our Founder and Executive Director, Daniela Gusman, had identified a gap in construction in the sub-Saharan region. That most infrastructural structures lack creativity and technicality. That is basically what the organization aims to address on top of community development. Also, the aim is to invite youth in the construction industry so that they get the skills and experience because they are the future of the country and thus have the potential to change the system in the long run.”
Rise International has partnered with government ministries, local organizations, business institutions and cooperates, however, there is a call for further collaboration, especially in the incubation programme. “There is a lot we can do collectively for this fellowship programme to grow and our doors are open for partnership,” said the Programme Coordinator.