Scan and Review of Youth Development Measurement Tools

Christina Olenik, Nicole Zdrojewski, Sharika Bhattacharya
USAID, JBS International, Inc.
Resource Type: 
Publication Date: 
Dec, 2013

A central constraining issue in the field of youth workforce development is the lack of consensus about how to measure soft and life skills, or “work readiness.” USAID’s Education Office asked JBS International, Inc. to scan and review tools designed to measure developmental assets, workforce readiness skills, and life skills – all areas identified as key stepping stones for young people to achieve positive life outcomes, particularly gainful employment. Results are discussed in a newly released report and summary brief.

A list of close to 50 measurement tools was reviewed and reduced down to 15 based on relevance to the main topic areas of interest to USAID (e.g., positive youth development, workforce readiness, conflict mitigation); 2) expected ease of implementation; 3) previous history of use in developing countries, 4) whether the tool had been used for youth assessments or evaluations; and 5) whether the tool was recommended specifically by an implementer or researcher. An expert panel was then brought together to formally review the top tools. They discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the tools based on a set of questions posed to help think about issues such as validity, reliability, user-friendliness, cost, and availability. The expert panel then met with staff from the USAID Office of Education to consider the challenges of measuring youth development outcomes in developing countries. The group deliberated on the pros and cons of USAID making additional investments in existing tools (e.g., reliability and validity testing) and/or adapting components of existing tools to measure an identified set of core developmental assets, workforce readiness skills, and life skills of importance across Agency youth programs. The meeting led to a discussion of possible next steps for USAID as they continue to work toward the goal of improved research and evaluation in youth development.

The report includes a list of the 50 tools reviewed, a description of the 5 top tools, and a discussion on measurement challenges for the field and how USAID might address them.

In order to address one of the major outstanding measurement challenges identified, USAID is now supporting an initiative under the Workforce Connections project to develop a common conceptual framework for key soft skills that prepare youth around the world for work, with a focus on skills that are malleable among youth ages 15-24. This effort is being led by Child Trends. Such a framework could, in the future, support the development of measures of skills development that would be adaptable to diverse countries and contexts, and would enable cross-comparisons of program outcomes.

Child Trends is conducting a rigorous review of the domestic and global literature on work readiness, complemented by consultation with stakeholders representing academia, donors and practitioners, practitioners engaged in relevant soft skills development programming and/or measurement, and employers. Based on the findings, the project will propose definitions for a core set of key skills that could form the basis for future development of measures for youth workforce development programs.

Workforce Connections solicits technical input from organizations with interest in contributing to this research effort. Respondents should indicate if they (a) have research or tools relevant to these topics that they would like to share, or (b) would like to be informed of public consultations or reporting on these themes. Similar efforts are under way in two other thematic areas, labor market analysis and job placement measurement. More detail on each thematic area, along with specific contact details, is provided at:

Workforce Connections is managed by FHI 360 and funded by USAID’s Office of Education.

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