About You and Your Work

Your bio:

Jane Muigai Kamphuis is the Founder of The Toolkit iSkills Limited (TTI). She founded TTI in 2014 to skill and grant access to skilled jobs to vulnerable youth. Mrs Muigai Kamphuis holds a Masters (LLM) from Harvard Law School and a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) Degree from the University of Nairobi. She has 15 years of global experience in refugee law with United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) 1999-2014. She has a track record in social justice work. She has a strong interest in education and skills training due to their potential to propel populations out of poverty. Jane strongly believes Africa can build with African hands, if the bulk of the workforce leaves the margins of informal, uncertified, semi-skilled labour. She has won various recognitions including being 2020 Women In Africa (WIA) Finalist. She is married with 3 children and lives in Nairobi, Kenya with her family.

Project name:

The Toolkit iSkills (TTI) Limited

One-line project summary:

Toolkit iSkills raises youth from unskilled, unemployed to skilled and highly sought-after.

Present your project.

The Toolkit iSkills (TTI) Limited was founded to redress the paradox of Africa having rapid growth that requires a skilled workforce, yet African youth are wasting away in their numbers due to lack of skills, certification, and jobs. 

TTI skills youth in record time through an innovative approach that combines life/employability skills, a technical trade, linkage to workplace based training (WBT) and jobs - both wage-earning and self-employment.

TTI is elevating young women and men from the hopelessness of slums, urban and rural poverty, to a dignified life with a skill, national and international certification and income. Literary a lifeline that gives the youth a lifelong career.

Submit a video.

What specific problem are you solving?

 With close to a million youth joining the informal workforce annually in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and other countries in the East Africa region, youth unemployment has been described as a ticking timebomb. Despite  high youth unemployment, Kenya and other African countries are importing skilled workforce to build dams, roads, rails, high-voltage power lines and other infrastructure. At TTI we believe that nothing will determine the future of Africa, more than its ability to transform its youthful population into a robustly skilled and reliable workforce.

At the Toolkit iSkills (TTI) Limited, we strongly believe that every youth has an inbuilt talent and potential that can be harnessed to make the person successful in a particular skill/trade. The majority of these are the millions unable to transition to secondary or tertiary education due to various factors. Youth unemployment remains one of the most significant challenges facing economies and societies in today’s world. 

TTI works in the skilling space, to save youth from the unsafe, hard, low-paying, unskilled or semi-skilled work. There's opportunity to skill and certify competencies that translate to better paying jobs, labour mobility, safer working conditions and dignity for the skilled youth. 

What is your project?

The Toolkit iSkills (TTI) Limited is a Kenyan social enterprise focused on  disrupting youth unemployment for bottom of the pyramid youth. TTI skills vulnerable youth, gets their skills recognized and certified and links them to job opportunities with various industry players. TTI applies a 3-Pillar approach to transform the life of a young person.

Pillar 1 – Life and Employability Skills. Starting with a strong component termed “My Individual Potential” beliefs in self and one’s abilities increase the self-worth and determination. 

Pillar 2 focuses on a particular trade. Blending in-class and on-the-job training, exposure to digital skills, modern equipment This is usually a foundation in the trade, leading to Government Trade Test III certification.

With this foundation, the youth proceeds to industry for exposure to modern equipment and techniques of the trade. Pillar 3 is industry linkage which is blended in time and experience through Workplace Based Training (WBT). The United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) has documented the ability of quality WBT programmes to transform youthful populations into skilled workforce. Youths trained by TTI get jobs, some start their own small businesses, but most of all, they have hope and determination to build their own lives! 

Who does your project serve, and in what ways is the project impacting their lives?

TTI serves vulnerable rural and urban youth, those with low levels of academic education, unskilled, unemployed and at risk of exploitation or exposure to radicalization, sexual exploitation, criminal activity, drugs/substance abuse and other social vices. TTI holds talks with the youth, seeks their opinions and understands their individual circumstances. Sometimes young mothers seek a training schedule that enables them to take care of their children.

Youth have informed us their hope is consistent income. They are willing to invest time, energy in the skills training, to attain a certification and become employable. 

Youth have raised concerns to us on compliance with government requirements. TTI has thus created partnership with government certifying and regulatory bodies to brief the youth during training. TTI has an innovative solution to transform unskilled and unemployed youth into skilled and highly sought-after. TTI model combines 21st Century Skills, Technical Skills and industry linkage. Young vulnerable women have turned into skilled welders, scaffolders, impressing public and private actors who thought young women cannot take up hardcore trades. Youth previously at risk of radicalization, crime, drugs and sexual exploitation are having a meaningful live, thanks to TTI. 

Which dimension of The Elevate Prize does your project most closely address?

Elevating opportunities for all people, especially those who are traditionally left behind

Explain how your project relates to The Elevate Prize and your selected dimension.

Our Toolkit innovation in youth skills training has lifted youth out of poverty, through increased knowledge and skills on enterpreneurship, jobs creation, and raised household income levels. 

Our innovation protects vulnerable youth from risky unsafe jobs and from crime, drugs/substance abuse, sexual exploitation for young women and radicalization. 

How did you come up with your project?

I thought hard about youth that fuel conflict and how they could fuel Africa's growth instead. Then I was a senior official in UNHCR. In 2014 I took the risk of leaving the UN job, to start TTI. 

My story of empowerment or lifting children and youth out of poverty is deeply rooted in the hundreds of children I observed in my childhood, growing up in central Kenya, written off as failures at age 13, 14, 15 years because they were not academically gifted. 

My 15-year UNHCR career gave me firsthand experience of how conflict is fueled by young fighters, who have no education, no skill, no job and nothing to lose! Populations uprooted from their homes, with thousands of children and youth ending up in refugee and IDP camps. Not much education or skills. And ultimately, they would return to their home countries, with a strong likelihood of fueling further conflict.

I have donated to children's education, run various empowerment projects in my career. But nothing is as potentially impactful as transforming a youth, relegated to failure by circumstances beyond their control into a skilled, proud, full-of-hope expert in a particular trade! 

Why are you passionate about your project?

As noted above in Why I came up with Project, I have a deep personal connection to the lifting of youth out of poverty, enabling them to be agents of their own growth, through skills training and the pride of being a solid earner.

In Africa, we have many paradoxes, but none baffles me more than the opportunities for skilled work arising from the growth in extractives, construction, infrastructure, renewable energy, agri-business yet hundreds of thousands of unemployed youth are wallowing in poverty, unskilled and skilled labour is imported for service the growth. Having worked with UNHCR for a decade and a half, I know such growth is quick sand, unless the governments and investors gain social ownership of the youth in this growth - through skills and jobs. Otherwise, conflict remains a strong potential, and hopeless youth will turn the growth into rubble and ashes in no time.  

What drives me daily is the success of the youth we have transformed in TTI. 

Why are you well-positioned to deliver this project?

Toolkit spent the first 3 years of its formation in establishing linkages and partnerships with youth to understand their needs, with non-profits running youth programmes resulting in partnerships with World Vision International, Safaricom Foundation, Zizi Afrique Foundation, Jaffer Foundation and Wadwani Foundation. TTI linked to employers / industry partners and their needs for skilled youth. This led to strong partnership with Kenya Association of Manufacturers and various enterprises, including Proto Energy, Mehta Electricals, Africa Gas Oil Limited, which all became key partners in taking up skilled youth for work experience. TTI established partnerships with training institutions, certification bodies and other regulators. TTI has a committed team of staff and youth volunteers, led by an experienced Director with a track record of 20 years professional experience in USA, Europe and Africa. 

The Director and other senior staff have previously designed and run projects on inclusion of young women in empowerment projects in refugee camps, and displaced populations. 

The youth skills coordinator is 30-years old and has been involved in youth work since he was 15 years old. He has worked in Australia and Kenya. The digital skills expert at TTI has previously ran digital skills training for women, working with African Women in ICT. The chief counselor and strategy manager has previously worked with Kenya Institution of Management and Kenya School of Government, where he ran courses for senior professionals and executives of public and private sector. The manager has run education programmes for vulnerable rural orphans and for refugees. 

Provide an example of your ability to overcome adversity.

In 2014, a leading manufacturer of paints in Kenya stopped its training of youth painters with TTI. We quickly strategized and established links with other paint manufacturers and distributors, and continued with youth skills training. Ultimately, there was interest from the leading manufacturer, who re-engaged with TTI. 

Another example is the challenge of girls in Mombasa being discouraged from taking TTI skills training due to cultural, religious and social norms that discouraged girls from technical trades. Through engagement with the girls, their partners, community groups and strong counseling for the girls, TTI was able to retain girls as a core group of its youth skills training. 

The biggest challenge was financial, as TTI could not raise funds for the skills training and most partners wanted to see past experience. The Director put in personal and family resources and after establishing traction and good results, TTI attracted funders for youth skills training. 

The Director learnt resilience from Rwanda, Liberia, Kosovo, Haitian and other refugee nationalities during her previous work with UNHCR and she has applied that strength to inspire her team and the youth trainees.

Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.

In 2010, I took a sabbatical from my position as Senior Policy Advisor in UNHCR HQs in Geneva to return to Kenya and scale the Hilde Back Education Fund (HBEF) into a national educational sponsorship fund, from a small village sponsorship programme. A film based on HBEF called A Small Act premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2010 and this led to sharp increase in donations to HBEF and at the time, HBEF did not have structures to manage large numbers of students or funds.

I recruited and trained staff, established management structures and successfully scaled the work of HBEF.

How long have you been working on your project?

Since its inception in 2014.

Where are you headquartered?

Nairobi, Kenya

What type of organization is your project?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
More About Your Work

Describe what makes your project innovative.

Toolkit youth skills training has burst myths of girls cannot do hardcore technical work like scaffolding, welding, etc by introducing the latest techniques, and international certification where none exists in Kenya.

Toolkit has adopted unique audio-visual aids in skilling illiterate youth to attain remarkable results that training institutions have been unable to attain as they apply traditional lecture methods. 

Toolkit has innovated in a way that is formalizing the informal sector, by getting youth from odd jobs at construction sites to get a skill, certification, and embedding them in international projects to learn from internationally certified technicians working in Kenya. 

Toolkit has managed to get licensing authorities like National Construction Authority (NCA) to informal settlements youth skills training, leading to a breakdown of bureaucratic processes for skilled construction workers to attain NCA accreditation.

What is your theory of change?

The Toolkit iSkills work is a strongly rooted in the belief that every child or youth deserves a chance and an opportunity to realize their potential. TTI started its work because there was overwhelming evidence for job opportunities in sectors that could be taken up by youth who are skilled. TTI has a vision of a skilled, resourceful African youth workforce that will build the continent, service the growth in infrastructure, 4th industrial revolution and protect their countries from destruction of conflict, because they have hope, meaning, decent income and ability to enjoy fulfilling lives.

Select the key characteristics of the community you are impacting.

  • Women & Girls
  • Rural
  • Peri-Urban
  • Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your project address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Kenya

How many people does your project currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

We currently have a database of 2000 and this is in the sectors of oil and gas and construction. 

In one year, we will have an additional 2000, and this is due to recent expansions to ICT, organic farming and hospitality sectors.

In five years, we will have grown to serve at least 10,000 annually and this is going to be possible due to optimization of skilling through technology and reaching higher numbers of youth per sector.

What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

In the next 5 years, TTI will have amplified technical skills training for young vulnerable African women to become internationally certified technicians in non-traditional trades who can be employed formally or run their own enterprises.

In the next 5 years, TTI will have created core constituencies of successful young males to be emulated by other unskilled and unemployed youth, who will shun political violence, conflict and radicalization in their communities. 

In the next 5 years, TTI will be a strong actor in rolling back importation of skilled labour into Africa.

What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

The main legal barrier is lack of a law and policy on Social Enterpreneurship in Kenya. However, TTI is a member of Society for Social Enterpreneurs in Kenya (SESOK) which is advocating for a policy and law on social enterprises.

The technical barrier relates to marketing to reach investors and industries that can partner with TTI in skilling and uptake of skilled youth.

The other main barrier is lack of robust Recognition and Certification of Prior Learning (RCPL) and or Recognition and Certification of Current Competence (RCCC). Toolkit is working with some international partners to overcome this barrier.  

How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

TTI is a member of Society for Social Enterpreneurs in Kenya (SESOK) which is advocating for a policy and law on social enterprises.

To overcome the technical barrier on effective marketing to reach investors and industries that can partner with TTI, we are considering hiring a marketing company or consultant. We are also promoting our work on social media and soon, generating a regular newsletter. 

To overcome the barrier posed to youth skills recognition and certification by Kenya's  lack of  Recognition and Certification of Prior Learning (RCPL) and or Recognition and Certification of Current Competence (RCCC), Toolkit has joined up with partners that are advocating for establishment of National Skills Council which will introduce and run RCPL and RCCC. Toolkit is also working with a few partners to pilot RCPL with some youth in the construction sector.  

What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

TTI has international organizations partners that it has worked with, on research and youth skills training including - the World Bank, International Labour Organization (ILO), World Vision International, UKAID, Wadhwani Foundation, Habitat for Humanity etc. 

Toolkit iSkills has excellent working relationship with key actors in the Education and Training Sectors of the Government of Kenya including State department for Maritime Affairs; KICD; KNQA; KETRB; CUE; CCDAC; TVETA and NITA. 

TTI is has professional memberships in the Social Enterprise Society of Kenya (SESOK), National Steering Committee on PoweringJobs, Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM), Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO), and Permanent Working Group on TIVET (PWG)

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your path to financial sustainability?

Toolkit has several revenue streams raised from selling its youth skills training services to the youth. Given that it targets vulnerable youth, payment for the services comes from:

- Investors / Companies investing in large projects where communities are poor and the investors require social security from the community. TTI provides end-to-end youth skills needs identification, training and linkage to jobs and charges the investor for this service.

- Deployment of skilled youth as apprentices to companies that require a future workforce 

- Funders - NGOs and Foundations that wish to invest in youth skills training 

If you have raised funds for your project or are generating revenue, please provide details.

TTI is a social enterprise that generates revenue and ploughs back 50% of its profits to its work. TTI has successfully raised funds through services In 2018, Habitat for Humanity gave an innovation award to TTI totalling 25,000USD and this has been renewed at same amount in 2020.

In 2016 ad 2017, UK-Aid funded TTI indirectly for youth skills training in Mombasa, Kenya. The total grant was 70,000 USD

From 2017 to 2020, TTI received over 500,000USD from companies and industry players / investors for youth skills training and workplace based training (WBT). 

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, World Vision International provided funding for TTI youth skills training amounting to over 100,000USD

In 2020 and 2021, the Safaricom Foundation is funding 130,000USD worth of youth skills training for vulnerable youth by TTI, drawn from 11 counties in Kenya. 

If you seek to raise funds for your project, please provide details.

TTI is seeking to raise 100,000USD for skilling urban and rural poor youth in organic farming skills that they can use to service urban families interested in kitchen gardens. There is huge clientele for this and TTI has invested 20,000USD already in the venture, but will increase the numbers with more funding.

TTI is seeking to raise 200,000 for a national skills center that will provide youth with one-stop information and skilling services linked throughout the country by an app.

What are your estimated expenses for 2020?

The total expenses for 2020 is estimated at 600,000 USD.

Solution Team

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