Case Studies

/Fisheries Apprenticeship Scheme for Youth in Bosaso, Somalia
Case Holder:
Ilias Dirie

Fisheries Apprenticeship Scheme for Youth in Bosaso, Somalia

Promotion of Youth Employment in Fragile Settings

Background & Context

Somali humanitarian and development indicators are among the world’s lowest, despite the high population growth. 70% of the Somali population is below 30 years of age. The unemployment rate of youths aged between 14 and 29 years is 67%, one of the highest in the world. The women are the most marginalized, their unemployment rate being 74%, while that of men is 61%. 21% of the Somali youth are neither in school nor working while 40% are actively looking for a job. Poverty and unemployment in Somalia have forced many young people to emigrate through perilous journeys across deserts and seas in search of a better life. More than 60% of Somali youth intend to leave the country in the search for better livelihood opportunities. The main causes of unemployment in Somalia are inadequate viable education, cultural and clan prejudices, an inadequate formal sector to support the population, and security concerns that inhibit the capacity of the country to attract foreign investments.

Illegal migration had crossed mymind several times. I was jobless and idle. However, the programme gave achance to employment through this apprenticeship. I am earning a livingnow

Interviewwith Farah Abukar Hussein, an apprentice at Danwadaag Fishing Company.

Somalia has a very poor socio-economic situation, with poverty cutting across gender, groups, locations and sectors. Some of the causes of poverty are absence of strong and active central government, natural calamities such as droughts and floods, and civil disputes. Additional causes of poverty include lack of remunerative employment, reduced access to economic services and goods, skewed distribution of wealth, and inadequate access to means of production such as capital and land. The high fertility rate has also seen the growth in dependency.  Somali youth engage in violent conflict mainly because of the high rate of youth unemployment. The high unemployment rate is attributable to the legacy of past violence, weak political participation, and poor governance, combined with inappropriate, inadequate and unequal skills and education.


The Problem

Many skills development programmes in the country fail owing to an inability to correctly understand the demands of the private sector and the labour market. This failure is exacerbated by the lack of an organized education system, leaving the sector run by a mix of local and international NGOs and private sector organizations, each with their own systems and regulations. In addition most of the courses provided do not address the real skills gap, leaving many young people disillusioned and without jobs once they enter the world of work.

Across Puntland, young people face real and increasing difficulty in finding jobs. Unemployment and underemployment are pervasive and rampant. This complete lack of youth engagement creates certain trends and patterns which will have far-reaching repercussions in the future. Migration through perilous routes ‘Tahreeb’ has increased exponentially, and remains the most cited social and economic problem at this time. Many of the youth have taken refuge in fuelling conflicts, destabilizing the fragile security of the region. Recruitment of youth by the radical extremist groups is still on the rise. Some are engaged in precarious and vulnerable employment conditions in the informal economy. These are all profoundly disturbing reflections on, and trends in, the current status of the youth.

The fishery sector constitutes one of the leading economic sectors in Puntland. A range of studies and analyses confirm the significance of the sector in terms of its growth potential, investment viability and employment generation. The potential for significant employment generation comes through improved fish production practice leading to increased demand for Puntland fish. However, there is a range of significant challenges which constrain realization of this strategic objective. These challenges variously include poor fish productivity arising from poor knowledge, practices and inputs used in catching fish which then also increase on-shore and off-shore spoilage; poor quality hygiene; poor infrastructure including the cold chains, landing sites and roads that connect production sites to markets; and lack of credit and of access to markets and certifications.

Despite the listed constraints, the fishery sector has significant importance; the coastline offers a rich, varied fish stock and has a medium-term potential for inclusive growth, providing extensive youth and female employment in a modernizing, sustainable industry.


The ILO has early recognized the importance of youth employment and promotes pathways to decent jobs as part of the broader Decent Work Programme (DWP). The Youth Employment Programme for Somalia was designed to address the structural failure to integrate youth into the labour market. The initiative focused on Bosaso as the key intervention district. The major objective of this initiative was to enhance the employability of youth in the fisheries sector by building up their skills through apprenticeship schemes and providing them with the necessary work experience through job placements and mentoring support. The ILO recognizes that these interventions are far less than is needed to give the young people a chance to make the most of their productive potential.

In collaboration with the Puntland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ILO has successfully set up an apprenticeship scheme for 150 youth (including 42 young women) in Bosaso, Puntland. The scheme is underway, with youth working in various occupations across the value chain, including fish handling and preservation, net-making, fish grading, packaging, and maintenance and repair of fishing gear. The project has been received positively by the 29 employers involved and by members of the local community who view the scheme as a way of discouraging illegal migration and providing young people with dignified employment.

Value Proposition & Activities

Trainees and Partners Orientation:

Both the trainees and training centres were given a thorough orientation on the project objectives, the processes to be followed and the expected results to be achieved at the conclusion of the apprenticeship training. Guidance was given to the trainees on skills selection which were informed by market research, while partners were trained in ILO’s financial and reporting guidelines.

Apprenticeship training:

For the apprenticeship scheme the following skills were identified by the employers as the areas in which they need more expertise and training for youths. The Chamber will sit with each trainee and provide guidance in order to determine their area of choice for skills training. When the process is completed by the following week, the list will be shared with ILO.

Basic fishing skills Diving/swimming
Gear mending Skippering/Scrubber skills Cutting fish
Gear maintenance Crew/deckhands/
mates retd skills
Preparing and cooking fish
Refrigeration and/or
Skipper engineering skills Freezing fish
Net making/building Shucking skills Grading and
Quality controls Repair and maintenance skills Marketing, sales  and
promotion skills
Mechanical skills First aid skills Transportation
Electrical skills Customer service Certification
Cleaning Supervising fishing operations Good manufacturing practices
Fibre glassing  Metalwork and welding  Product Development

A total of 150 youths (43 Female and 107 Male) were selected and benefited from the fisheries apprenticeship training in Bosaso.

Learning & results

45 out of 150 youths (30%) have been retained by employers and are now working full-time with the local businesses. Furthermore, a quick survey following completion of the scheme showed that the fishery businesses involved in the apprenticeship have made profits, thanks to the labour and skills offered by young people. 20 of the 29 employers involved in the apprenticeship schemes reported increases in sales ranging from 1% to 9%, attributable to youth working in the business.

The main lesson learned was that working hand-in-hand with the private sector is the key to successful implementation of skills development programmes in the country. After years of conflict, and in the absence of strong governance structures, the private sector was and still is the main provider of social services and is critical in shaping development. Local businesses are very willing to participate in skills programmes as they see this as a win-win situation, filling certain skills gaps while improving their production.


Some of the feedback from youth and local businesses on the schemecan be found at:

Complexities of working in a fragile setting 

Security remains a considerable challenge in the country, and trust is critical for a successful project. Consultative meetings with local government, communities and local businesses to explain the project and receive their support proved very important in promoting a feeling of inclusion and in ensuring the support of all major stakeholders. Working with local government also brings a sense of ownership of projects and helps promote sustainability.


Conclusion & the future variation

Throughout the implementation of the scheme, many young people expressed an interest in entrepreneurship, and therefore future programmes will include a component on business training and access to finance for those youth with viable business ideas for promoting self-employment.Local businesses suggested in-kind grants for purchase of equipment rather than loans, as loans can be a burden for young people

who may find it hard to repay money owing to the seasonality of the fishing sector.