- Employers can face barriers like over-weighing the immediate costs or misperceiving the potential benefits of hiring interns and apprentices.
- Applying behavioral science concepts can address these barriers and encourage employer participation in workplace learning programs.
Governments globally are putting policies and frameworks in place to support youth in finding decent employment. However, the success of such policies relies on the many decisions and actions of private-sector employers and job seekers. In Rwanda, around 50% of youth are in the school-to-work transition and without “decent” work, defined by the International Labor Organization as work that is “productive for both women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and human dignity.”
Workplace learning opportunities, like apprenticeships and internships, are a useful way to gain entry to the workforce. While the Government of Rwanda has a comprehensive policy to expand technical trainings and workplace learning opportunities—and numerous programs that aim to encourage participation—low uptake by private-sector employers and job seekers alike has stifled the policy’s potential impacts.
To better understand the factors that may be driving low participation in technical training and workplace learning programs, we partnered with an organization in Rwanda to conduct a deep dive into the Rwandan context.
Through discussions with staff and employers in the private sector, we uncovered numerous behavioral barriers that private sector companies face in participating in these programs and hiring interns or apprentices. For example, companies reported perceiving participation in such programs as costly and offering few benefits. Some companies also reported what translates to present-bias, where they see the immediate costs of participating (in terms of staff time) as higher than the longer-term benefits of having a well-trained workforce.
Following this diagnosis process, we developed a set of recommendations—listed below—to improve existing workplace learning programs and encourage companies with the means and bandwidth to participate in apprenticeship and internship programs in Rwanda.
- Design clear recruitment materials that correct misperceptions about programs and outline the costs and benefits of hiring interns or apprentices.
- Provide heuristics, or rules of thumb, of when companies can expect to begin realizing the benefits of having interns or apprentices.
- Reduce hassles companies face in participating. For example, reduce the paperwork required and automate steps where possible.
These recommendations are a good starting point. Policymakers should design labor policies, frameworks, and programs that account for how people will experience them in the real world to ensure more people can benefit.