Workforce development initiatives build the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that youth need to obtain and participate in productive work. Activities in this area strive to bring the private and public sector together to ensure that education improves both the workforce readiness and technical skills necessary for youth to participate in the world of work effectively.

Where are we now?

Workforce development as a field is hard to generalize due to its many different providers, approaches, and target populations, which range from universities educating highly-skilled medical personnel to community organizations providing basic literacy skills to out-of-school youth.  However, increasing global unemployment and events, such as the Arab Spring, have highlighted a common problem of these providers - their services have not kept pace with changes in the private sector, leading to widespread mismatches between skills available and those demanded. Practitioners are responding through a renewed emphasis on collaboration with the private sector to ensure that educational institutions and community organizations are providing demand-driven skills to students, while employers invest in improved on-the-job training to build the skills of new employees quickly and cost-effectively.

Trends and Best Practices

  • Private sector buy-in is critical in developing the programs that link young people to formal employment opportunities. When the private sector is an invested party with donors and social organizations, there is greater possibility for young people to access employment opportunities as they continuously develop their skills and knowledge.
  • Young people and their families are looking for programs that offer practical and hands on opportunities, such as apprenticeships with trade based companies or internships with companies or NGO's. Some programs offer voucher systems that cover the cost of the internships, which have been particularly successful for young women seeking employment in more conservative countries. Participation in workforce development programs often increases when these practical opportunities for relevant skills application are included.
  • Many vocational institutions are not best placed to develop the technical skills of young people given the high rate of change in technology and the challenges for these institutions to keep pace. The private sector, on the other hand, has to keep pace with the market to remain competitive and therefore offers an alternative housing of skills development offerings.
  • Historically, workforce development focused primarily on building technical skills required for a given trade. However, most programs now recognize the importance of incorporating work-readiness skills, including basic literacy, numeracy, and job conduct. If these skills are lacking, it will make their ability to function in the workplace and learn more specialized vocational skills very weak.
  • Creating employment opportunities is just as important as skills building and should encompass all types of employment – formal, informal, and self-employment. The latter two are particularly important for vulnerable populations, such as women and youth, who may be excluded from formal employment.

A Better Metric for the Value of a Worker Training Program: Cost Per Employed Day

Generation, USAID, World Bank

There are thousands of workforce development and training programs, run by the public, social, and private sectors. Some are excellent; others, not so much. The problem is that we don’t always know which are which. How do we make sure we are getting the results we want to achieve—young people in jobs—and doing so as cost-effectively as possible?

Scaling Solutions to the Youth Unemployment Crisis: New Models for Rural and Urban Youth Economic Engagement

TechnoServe, African Management Initiative, The MasterCard Foundation

With 11 million young people entering sub-Saharan Africa’s job market annually, youth account for 60% of the region’s unemployment. Many lack basic skills and struggle to and or create work for themselves. And the needs and challenges of rural and urban youth can vary greatly. To address this employment gap, job training and skills development programs not only need to address rural vs.

The Value of Hunger in Youth Employment Programming: Hiring for Attitude and Training for Skill

Mercy Corps, WAVE Academies

What attitudes and behaviors can improve the likelihood of positive livelihood outcomes? How can one screen for these traits in dynamic, low-capacity contexts? What processes and tools would be beneficial, and can these same systems work efficiently at scale?

Creating the "LinkedIn" for the LinkedOut: How to Enable Job Matching and Career Identity in the Informal Labor Sector

Social Venture Fund, Lynk Jobs Ltd., Impact Labs

While developed economies have experienced a recent movement towards the ‘gig economy,’ this has long been the norm for most African youth, who navigate multiple small jobs simultaneously.

Preparing the Future Workforce Requires Transformations in What We Know, How We Learn, & How We Work

Bryanna Millis, Director, Workforce Development and Entrepreneurship, FHI 360 Monika Aring, Senior Technical Advisor, Workforce Development and Entrepreneurship, FHI 360

Future of Work Blog Series| Preparing for the Many Futures of Work

Andrew Baird, President & CEO, Education For Employment – Global (EFE-Global)

Increased job mobility, or instability, has rapidly accelerated in the past thirty years as the nature of work transforms dramatically and continuously. Successfully preparing youth for an ever-evolving job market requires employers, educational institutions, civil society and governments to engage at a number of levels, and in sustained, complementary ways.  

Future of Work Blog Series | Youth on the Move: Migration, employment, and young people’s success in Kenya and beyond

Amy Sink Davies, Senior Director for Food Security and Agriculture, RTI International & Eric Johnson, Senior Research Economist, RTI International

As one of East Africa’s rising economic stars, Kenya continues to serve as a model for development progress. But with one in six young people in Kenya currently jobless, development partners have very rightly begun to factor youth empowerment into projects in nearly every sector.

Advancing Pathways to Education and Workforce Opportunities for Systems-Involved Youth

American Youth Policy Forum
Sep 25, 2017 (12:00pm)

Young people involved in the child welfare and/or juvenile justice systems often face significant challenges to long-term success.

Webinar Resources: Identifying Economic Impact in Workforce Development Programming

RTI International, Education Development Center (EDC)

In an environment of growing scrutiny of donor-funded development activities, practitioners, including youth practitioners, must show evidence of the broader economic value of investments in workforce development. Using the USAID’s Local Enterprise Value-chain Enhancement (LEVE) project in Haiti as a case study, RTI International will share a framework to support implementers to better estimate, understand and demonstrate the economic impact of workforce development and economic growth programs on the larger economy. 

Resource Type: 

Roll Call: Getting Children into School

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)

There has been a dramatic rise in the number of children enrolled in school. From 2000 to 2015, the portion of primary school age children (6–12 years old) enrolled in school worldwide rose from 83 to 91 percent. For those aged 12–16, enrollment rose from 55 to 65