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Developing skills and career

Developing skills and career

Siham Ayele is the Program Director at – a business unit of On the verge of launching Dereja’s Virtual Career Expo and HR Conference, she reflects with Samuel Getachew of The Reporter on it, on helping young graduates get opportunities for employment, on finding partnership and using her own experience to share wisdom for others to secure sustainable employment. Excerpt:

The Reporter: The annual job fair organized by Dereja is going virtual as a result of the pandemic.  Tell me about that?

Siham Ayele: The 2020 plan for Dereja was to scale up and reach more graduates than before as we formed a partnership with the MasterCard Foundation. Our target this year was to reach 20,000 plus students and find employment opportunity for 50 percent while having 70 percennt to be women. At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, like many companies we were afraid since we didn’t know what that meant for our organization and objective. Especially because most of our interventions involved face-to-face interactions, traveling to universities and all. My team and I took a day to regroup came back and thought of new ways to present our programs.

This pandemic although tragic, gave us the opportunity to think outside of the box and create something as amazing and innovative as this Virtual Career Expo.  We knew we don’t have an option than to be innovative as possible. It took us three good months to find the right platform like medaxpo and three months to construct.

What was achieved so far and how many prospective jobs bound students has it helped so far?

Though the pandemic hindered most of the new job opportunities we initially had and left many businesses and employers with uncertainty on how to move forward with their business, it didn’t leave us with zero.  Most organizations have to re-vamp their new positions to digital marketing, IT, remote internship opportunities, we have managed to get this opening positions. At the same time, through the past four years of Dereja’s operations, we have built sort of a standard for most of our clients hiring a fresh graduate and giving opportunity means investing in the growth of the company as well the wellbeing of the country.

We have organizations like, Moenco, BGI Ethiopia, Zemen Bank, Heineken, Precise Consult, Unilever and many more that has various recruitment programs for fresh graduates and are model organization which played a great part in tackling youth unemployment.  This virtual fair has simplified recruiting for both job seekers and employers. Through this expo we managed to have over 1000 students register to participate and over 200 positions available from employers with a 3- 6 month recruiting plan. The high demand amongst students has actually led us to host a second virtual career expo before the end of 2020, where we will cater to more students and employers.

What is the climate of employment now in the midst of the pandemic for students who are about to graduate?

This outbreak has affected the employment climate at all levels on top of the year to year challenge we face on the gap between the supply and demand. It’s obvious that our country does not produce 200,000 plus jobs ever year for graduates.  Our Job here at Dereja is to identify the openings, to push and push the public, private, SMEs, to give first opportunities for the graduates. By working in partnership with the universities and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and through our various programs such as Dereja Academy, our resourceful website ( and the Job fair clinics we managed to produce a remarkable, competent graduates with great employability skills that are desired by the market. Through this pandemic employment opportunities have been narrowed down but new opportunities are coming in, it is with this belief that this first virtual career expo has been organized.

What do you think is the most a student can get from his or her participation?

To your surprise, we actually are so proud of graduates’ level of engagement with the platform, we feared at first as we have repeatedly witnessed the gap in using technology. COVID- 19 did not leave anyone a choice so they have forced themselves to learn and adapt and we did as well. So, I would say, the first thing the graduates got is the learning opportunity, seeing that it is possible to use technology in each aspect of life and to be innovative and to go out from their comfort zone. The second is that, the expo simplifies the job-search process for fresh graduates by providing them with the opportunity to meet dozens of employers all from one simple use of a platform and in the comfort of their personal workspace with zero cost.

The trend has been that job seekers used to spend more than 10 birr per day to find a job and we all know what that means for fresh graduates. Because they have made a choice to participate in this platform not only do they get the opportunity to build their own profile, applied for the few new job opportunities, but they also  have the opportunity to network and chat with employers.  Students were also given the opportunity to participate in numerous professional development webinars led by industry heads like Abenezer Feleke (Marketing Specialist Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Tewodros Tadesse (Founder and CEO, CALS(x-Hub), Samuel Bekele (CEO, Spotlight Communication and Marketing), Dagmawi Dawit (HR Manger, Komari Beverages) and our own Meklit Mintesinot, (Dereja, Training Manager and Zemensil Melsse, Info Mind Solutions HR Manger)

Who are some of the companies involved this year who are in the position to hire? 

Over 40 plus companies that participated for the first Virtual Expo we have managed to sign MoU’s with 15 plus employers that has recruitment plan within 3-6 months. Komari Beverages, Multichoice Ethiopia, Zemen Shoo, HST, Ethiochicken, ABIG, Adelphoi Trading PLC are the few among others. 

What advice do you have to students who are prospective graduates and are ready to look for work?

I have started my career before I graduated from the Addis Ababa University with a Political Science and International relations degree in 2014. Within these few years I have managed to lead, a business unit of a well-known brand that stands for providing HR Solutions. We have formed Dereja because of the passion we have in developing human capital and the youth are the vulnerable groups with so much potential.

At Dereja, I have found my life purpose and passion. My Advice for young graduates is to find that passion, be bold, be brave, work really hard as nothing comes easy, put yourself out there and network, continuously seek learning and developing your personal and professional skills. Do not be afraid of any rejection not even from a job application, take all the opportunities the world provides you with. Believe in yourself and your capability and other will believe in you, that is what I have got from my experience and now others are believing in what am doing just like our CEO Yusuf Reja who gave me that first opportunity to start my career as an intern at

Any last words? 

I want to give a special thanks to the Mastercard Foundation for believing in Dereja, for supporting us to scale up. The partnership we have got from Mastercard enabled us to bring this innovative virtual platform to Ethiopia and to continue so and bring more innovative solutions for the youth employment challenge Ethiopia is facing.

I would also like to thank the Jobs Creation Commission for partnering with us as a newly established organization. We are always awed by their time to time progress. My appreciation goes to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and all our university partners for believing in what we are making and what we provide for your organizations and graduates. Similarly, I would like to thank the employers who always took a leap of faith and agreed to join us on this endeavor and for giving opportunities for our graduates.  The graduates of 2020 thank you for your commitment and trusting us with the process as we always work really hard to develop your skills and career.  Last but not least, the Dereja and Ethiojobs team and Medaxpo platform team for your relentless work that helped bring this vision to life.