Eight years ago, I graduated from United Methodist University in Liberia and was enthusiastically seeking a career in the private sector. The private sector was appealing to me and other new graduates because it offered lucrative compensation, benefits, and professional growth opportunities – all of which were particularly enticing against the backdrop of a country that was only beginning to recover from a 14-year civil war.
Just as I had begun to make active plans for a career in social development, I heard about a unique opportunity to work within the nascent democratic government of Liberia. Before then, it had never crossed my mind to pursue a career in the civil service – the general perception was that you had to be politically connected to get government jobs.
Even with connections, most high-performing graduates weren’t interested in government work because it had a reputation for stymying professional development. However, I quickly learned that this particular opportunity with the President’s Young Professionals Program of Liberia, otherwise known as PYPP, would circumvent these shortcomings.
PYPP was offering mentoring and professional development opportunities that intrigued me, including responsive training and immersion excursions to counties and cities outside Monrovia. It sounded almost too good to be true, but I applied nonetheless – and, after a meritocratic and transparent recruitment process, I was recruited into the first class of the PYPP.
Now, seven years later, I serve as the executive director of the PYPP. In that time, I’ve seen firsthand how critical a strong civil service is to Liberia. PYPs, the moniker used for current members or alumni of our program, has helped pass a timely and balanced budget, shortened the wait time for passports, responded rapidly to health threats, and supervised roads and massive infrastructure projects.
Ninety percent of the 120 fellows we have placed in Liberian ministries or agencies remain in public service even after the end of the two-year program. Presidents will come and go but the PYPP is one of the institutions that will ensure capacity depth in Liberia’s civil service.
Similar to the Presidential Management Fellows program in the U.S., PYPP has been very important to building the fabric of Liberia’s civil service. As I found out experientially, it imbues its young professionals with soft and hard skills as well as a sense of professionalism, integrity, excellence, and commitment to service.
These values are critical to the delivery of good governance in Liberia, a requisite for the country’s development. Notably, PYPP does not offer a strong financial incentive to fellows, which indicates that the alumni who remain in public service after the end of the two-year program do so for patriotic and altruistic reasons.
With a long-term vision of developing the next generation of civil service leaders, PYPP is a critical piece to the Liberian government. Furthermore, as a sustainable public-private partnership, the PYPP model adheres to the strict non-partisan codes of the Not-For-Profit Corporations Act of Liberia.
Our mission is to help the Liberian government execute on its policies through the innovation, technical competencies, and professionalism that the PYPs offer. As a member of the inaugural class and now as Executive Director of the program, I can authoritatively attest to the fact that PYPs are solely driven by a commitment to Liberia; and that PYPP is crucial to Liberia’s development and prosperity.
Featured photo courtesy of the President’s Young Professionals Program of Liberia