Mentorship has been a key driver of success for the Systems Change Program in Employability (SCPE). Between 2020 and 2023, five mentors from four institutions in three countries supported the learning, development, and growth of peer career services leads in five higher-education institutions. Their collective efforts contributed to building up systems that support the career readiness of over 40,000 students. The SCPE, a mid-to-long-term systems transformation process, aims to fundamentally develop the components and structures of key systems that drive employability outcomes in higher education institutions.

Here, three mentors share their reflections and journey.

Always tell your story. Never assume people know it
“Until the hunted learn to tell their story, the hunter’s story will always be celebrated” is a saying that resonated deeply with Ivy Muthoni, Associate Manager of the Careers Office at Strathmore University, Kenya. She was reminded of this adage during her mentorship relationship with the career services team at Rwanda Polytechnique Gishari (RP Gishari).

“By sharing success stories with students and staff members, other departments are able to observe what we are doing, and eventually connect to their own work,” she shares. “Career services units are systematically connected to all other units in the university, and it’s our job as leaders to communicate those connections.”

She further underscores the importance of communication: “What one department is doing could be beneficial to the others, but if you don’t tell your story, the others won’t know about it.” Working with the team at RP Gishari solidified this crucial responsibility for Ivy, highlighting the power of storytelling in promoting collaboration and shared success across departments.

Adapting Solutions Across Diverse Institutions
Early in her mentorship journey, Christine Osae quickly discovered that successful solutions in one institution might not translate to another, even if proven effective elsewhere. “My university has always been small, with under 1,500 students,” she explained. “Accra Technical University has over 18,000, so our smaller-scale approach wouldn’t work the same. We had to adapt and implement a ‘divide-and-conquer’ strategy, focusing on smaller student groups.”

Population wasn’t the only hurdle. As Christine observed, “When presented with a problem, your first step shouldn’t be recommending solutions based solely on your experiences. It’s crucial to conduct a needs assessment with the specific institution first, understanding their unique challenges and aligning your recommendations with their goals.”

Regarding the impact, Christine was eager to share the lasting effects on her mentee institution. “Two years ago, Accra Technical University had no dedicated career center,” she said excitedly. “Now, we have a well-established virtual center, and we’re working on creating a physical space. Additionally, there’s a call center students can access for guidance anytime.”

Mentorship: A Mutual Learning Experience
While learning from a mentor is a common expectation, Karoli Kolokonyi of Kepler in Rwanda experienced the value of a mutually beneficial mentorship with another institution. “Mentoring Burkina Institute of Technology (BIT) was an opportunity for reciprocal learning, and I truly gained valuable insights,” he shared.

One noteworthy practice Karoli observed was BIT’s dedication to entrepreneurship. “They dedicate three days annually for students to showcase and sell their products, like fruit juice,” he explained. “This is something I found remarkable and plan to implement at Kepler.”

This exchange extended beyond individual lessons. As Karoli noted, “Sometimes, seeing others’ success challenges you to improve your approach. This interaction helped me rethink how to support Kepler students better.”

The Systems Change Program is an 18-month systems transformation process designed to fundamentally develop the components and structures of key systems that drive outcomes in higher education institutions (HEI). It combines a systems approach and implementation grant to drive the targeted institutional transformation. The program identifies HEIs as champions for change and takes them through expert training and mentoring, and provides them with funding to improve on and develop new systems within their institution.  

Click here to learn more about the Systems Change Employability – Program.