When I was in primary school and even through to secondary school, Saturday afternoons were always reserved for making our hair. We undid the week’s cornrows, washed each other’s hair, gave it time to breath, oiled it, and then plaited fresh styles for the following week. We always looked at it as a fun break to the monotony of the week in boarding school and as much as we did not know it then, it acted as a platform for us to learn basic hair dressing.

There were those who were naturally better than others and they were always in demand for favours. When I look back at those years, it is unfortunate that very few of us looked at hairdressing as a career that could be their source of income after school. Our education system hammered in us the need to get good grades, go to university and land ourselves white collar jobs. Which is all good, except one, not everyone had the mental capacity for this and two, the number of graduates that the system is churning out every year cannot be accommodated in the job market.

It is even more unfortunate that around 2002 in one of the biggest dis-service we have done to the youth and to this country, some bright soul thought it wise to convert polytechnics to Technical Universities and raise minimum grades for entry. This locked out thousands of young men and women from trainings and subsequent employment. As this happened, other industries that required hands-on skills were getting bigger and are now facing shortages in skilled labour.

One of those industries is beauty and hairdressing. So high is the demand for these services among both men and women that it has become quite an avenue for employment and entrepreneurship for the youth to make decent incomes for themselves and their families. More and more women are seeking to look their best and as a result, salon owners are continuously employing trained hairdressers and beauty therapists. Additionally, more and more entrepreneurs are stepping up and opening up their own centers to offer these services. In short, this is an industry that can no longer be ignored.

It is therefore very good news that in a powerful show of keeping up with trends, both Government and private sector have recognized this gap and are coming up with measures to help those who may not afford the necessary training. Participation of these two entities is quite a powerful rubberstamp to the need for skills both for employment or for entrepreneurship. Unlike in the past when beauty and hairdressing was looked down upon and relegated to those that society thought could not do better, now it is a career like any other and people are working it!

Among those in private sector who are bent on seeing this industry grow is Godrej, the makers of Darling Hair Extensions. In a move that will greatly impact the economic scene in the country, the company earlier this year partnered with the Council of Governors to implement the Wezesha Jamii CSR project.

This will work by training a minimum of 5,000 youth from disadvantaged backgrounds in hairdressing and beauty, and going further to ensure job placement for at least 1,500 of these. And not just that. In a well rounded curriculum, The beneficiaries will also be trained in the much needed life skills, business skills, communication skills and financial literacy. Because in the end these additional skills are required to enable them make good use of the work skills.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the program has already been tested. In the last two years, Godrej ran a pilot program where 1000 youths in vocational training centers in Nairobi, Kitui, Trans Nzoia, Migori, Machakos, Kisii and Uasin Gishu counties were trained.

We’ll be following up on several stories around this exciting project. In the meantime, kudos Godrej and county governments for taking the steps to enable the most energetic people in the population to be able to stand on their feet economically.

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