$2M USAID grant continues, thrives as it surpasses year one
In 2021, Michigan State University received a four-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help build the skills needed for economic growth in Mozambique.
MSU has partnered with three Mozambican universities to develop capacity to provide quality employability services for students and to launch career development centers that other higher education institutions can replicate.
“Mozambican college alumni often rely on informal networks to secure jobs, such as word of mouth, not a set of credentials or experiences they gained from earning a degree,” said Matthew Wawrzynski, project director and professor of Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE) at MSU. An expert in student affairs, Wawrzynski brings years of experience with international university partnerships and programming focused on sustainable capacity development and knowledge transfer.
“Compounding the issue of securing employment is few students are engaged in internships or other types of practical work experiences, for example, because of high unemployment rates,” Wawrzynski added. “We are working with the universities to develop new types of career exploration and training, so students learn necessary skills that employers are seeking.”
Over four years, the USAID Higher Education Career Development Initiative (HECDI) will combine leadership expertise from the MSU College of Education and the Career Services Network including:
- Jennifer Marcy, a Ph.D. graduate of the College of Education’s HALE program, as project manager, and
- Jeff Beavers, executive director of MSU’s Career Services Network, who is establishing training and activities that ensure students, including women and persons with disabilities, graduate with the technical, entrepreneurial and soft skills to enter and thrive in the labor market.
The goal is to institutionalize career development centers (CDCs) across the Mozambique higher education system. While other initiatives have supported the development of CDCs in other parts of the world, HECDI is the first project of its kind for USAID in Mozambique.
The project is seeing clear markers of success across its four key objectives.
OBJ. 1: ESTABLISH SUSTAINABLE PILOT CAREER DEVELOPMENT CENTERS WITH PARTNER UNIVERSITIES
Each of the Mozambique higher education institutions (HEIs) have established a physical location for their career development center and have made progress in hiring full-time roles, including financial and data analysts, gender advisors, training and recruiting coordinators, and undergraduate student-led roles as career ambassadors. In at least one institution, roles are also being created to support students with disabilities.
At the start-up of each new CDC, the HEIs participated in an 18-week virtual training program to provide a scope of knowledge, skills and insight needed to successfully open and manage a campus CDC. To support this, HECDI leaders helped the HEIs in creating a sustainable framework to recruit, onboard, train and retain employees.
OBJ. 2: PROVIDE CAREER GUIDANCE, EMPLOYABILITY SERVICES AND IMPROVE OPPORTUNITIES TO GAIN SKILLS FOR ALL STUDENTS
HECDI offers a core set of education and training skills to students at the three HEIs, including technical (e.g., CV and cover letter writing) and soft skills (e.g., communication, teamwork) workshops, which were launched in year one.
Each institution also conducted assessments from workshop participants to learn how to adjust offerings based on community needs. Based on the positive response to the career development center, one institution was even able to secure additional space to expand its efforts.
OBJ. 3: ESTABLISH SYSTEMS FOR ANALYZING LABOR MARKET NEEDS, SHARE INSIGHTS WITH COMMUNITY TO CLOSE SKILL GAPS
Throughout the project, HECDI leaders are working with stakeholders, including private sector employers, to identify and analyze business demands, soft skill gaps, talent readiness, internship opportunities and more. Notably, HECDI is adapting a survey from the MSU Collegiate Employment Research Institute to aid in capturing information from country stakeholders.
Work is also being done to train faculty, career ambassadors and students on sexual harassment, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and at HEIs. In addition, a Women’s Professional Development Program is being developed to address gender gaps by strengthening leadership skills of women.
OBJ. 4: FACILITATE DIALOGUE THAT MAY LEAD TO BETTER ALIGNMENT TO IMPLEMENT POLICY NATIONWIDE
HECDI leaders have conducted an assessment and gap analysis among current private sector partnerships and have produced a stakeholder map in each region. Conversations with key personnel—including the U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique, the Mozambique National Director for Higher Education and more—were also initiated within the first years of the project.
“I am happy [with the CDC Career Services because it] challenge[s] us to see our careers, find areas to improve and helps access the labor market.”-Female student, UEM
Well into its second year, the HECDI has onboarded 27 campus professionals and 20 student career ambassadors at the three Mozambique HEIs who have the potential to impact thousands of students throughout the four-year project timeline. With sustainability of services as a key element of the HECDI, more benefits are expected in the years following the grant’s conclusion.
“The U.S. government is proud to support this program,” said USAID Mozambique Mission Director Helen Pataki. “As young Mozambicans increasingly engage in the global and regional economies, this program will help bridge the gap between youth and employers by better connecting educational institutions with the changing needs of the private sector and giving students information and skills needed to succeed.”
MSU MODEL MEETS MOZAMBIQUE
MSU’s College of Education is collaborating with MSU’s Career Services Network for the Higher Education Career Development Initiative (HCEDI) in Mozambique. MSU’s Career Services Network offers a unique array of services using career peers as student leaders to help mentor and advise students with resume reviews, internship searches and career exploration. The program empowers students to help each other, while also adding scalability and flexibility to the staffing model. In conjunction with the Mozambique context, this framework is at the heart of the model developed for three partner Mozambique higher education institutions.
HECDI BY THE NUMBERS (SEPT 2021 – 2022)
- 3 partner institutions: Instituto Superior Politécnico de Manica, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Universidade Púnguè
- 207 learners reached by HECDI initiatives
- 31% of students and 37% of staff trained by HECDI project personnel were women
- 13 career ambassadors recruited and trained at the three partner institutions