Skills for Success: Building a Work-Ready Generation in Merauke, Byte-by-Byte

Step into the digital age, where the majority of youth are hailed as digital natives, effortlessly navigating the vast landscape of technology. Now, picture a stark contrast – a group of youth who have never laid hands on a computer, let alone had the privilege of accessing one. In a world seemingly united by screens, the reality of digital exclusion among some of our youth is a compelling narrative that begs exploration. Travel far to the easternmost part of Indonesia, and we will find the paradox of the digital era, where not every young mind has had the chance to embrace the technological wave.

Edoardo Mote, a Papuan native, obtained his degrees from top universities in Indonesia. After completing his Master’s degree, he chose to return to his hometown and work with a local NGO. Driven by his firsthand experience in the field, interacting with different indigenous communities, he aspired to initiate projects aimed at supporting children and youth, with a special focus on the indigenous Papuans in the Merauke district. This led to the establishment of the Papua Mandiri Foundation in 2020, with a mission to reach out to the indigenous Papuan community entrenched in the challenges of structural poverty and underdevelopment.

Edo engaging with his students in one of the interactive training sessions

One of the first Papua Mandiri's initiatives is a computer literacy program, prompted by the observation that many indigenous Papuan youth still lack proficiency in using computers. When this initiative started, there was skepticism regarding the necessity of such training in the 21st century, given the prevailing notion that youth, deemed digital natives, should inherently possess computer literacy skills. However, the reality in Merauke differs; access to computers is expensive and often challenging, and many indigenous youth face difficulty obtaining it until later stages in their education.

Computer literacy class at Papua Mandiri Foundation

In 2021, the Papua Mandiri Foundation received grants from Kopernik through the Youth for Papua (YFP) program. This was a moment that further supported their work in providing meaningful impact. The program aimed to enhance students' learning achievements, and individuals seeking employment could readily secure jobs equipped with skills acquired from Papua Mandiri's training. The training initiatives have since been replicated by various organizations in Wamena, Jayapura, Sorong, Nabire, and Boven Digoel. Notably, some trainers in Boven Digoel are graduates of this program, showcasing the ripple effect of their efforts.

Office administration skills are highly sought after in Merauke

The success of Papua Mandiri's initiatives drew attention from the Manpower Office of Merauke District, which advised them to formalize Papua Mandiri for official recognition by the government. In 2021, Papua Mandiri obtained an operational permit as a training center from the Ministry of Manpower, and within a few months, it achieved accreditation for its computer courses.

This year, upon receiving a grant for Youth for Papua 2023, the Papua Mandiri Foundation expanded its program beyond computer literacy. The focus now extends to essential workplace skills, including English proficiency, public speaking, multimedia, and office administration. These skills, identified through discussions with both the government and the private sector, are recognized as crucial in the workforce. Additionally, the foundation has incorporated character-building sessions, acknowledging the significance of cultivating qualities such as discipline and integrity.

Edo concludes by expressing a heartfelt aspiration, stating, "My hope is to witness the success of Papuan youth in their chosen fields, to see them evolve into great leaders, and nurture new leaders. In my view, the success of a leader is when they can inspire and cultivate leaders who excel beyond themselves.”

The Papua Mandiri Foundation shows how targeted skill-building initiatives are reshaping the landscape for the youth of Papua. In a place where potential meets preparation, this is the story of change in Merauke – one skill at a time.