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.

Training: Measuring Positive Youth Development in Youth-focused Programming

YouthPower Learning
Oct 30, 2017 (All day)

YouthPower Learning invites youth-serving organizations to attend this free, in-person training on how to measure Positive Youth Development (PYD) to improve program performance on multi-sector outcomes. PYD is a guiding principle of USAID’s Youth in Development Policy. Both a philosophy and an approach, PYD emphasizes the importance of young people having the knowledge and skills they need, the opportunity to harness those skills, and a supportive environment in order to thrive as adults.

Off the Beaten Track: Interview

Oxfam Novib

Carin Boersma does not shy away from controversies. She does not uncritically accept contemporary trends. Microfinance? Better be careful! Transferable skills? No, very focused practical training is much more effective! And instead of connecting to existing value chains, it is much better to deter-mine your own path. An inspiring interview with Oxfam’s Global Learning Expert about getting away from the beaten track.

Win-Strategies for Building Economic Resilience in Youth

Avencion Group

Labor force participation among young people between the ages of 15 and 35 is not at full capacity, most youth are untrained, inexperienced, and lack fundamental educational skills to impact their job successfully. To tackle Global Youth Unemployment rates, tailored interventions and coaching strategies need to be scaled to ensure every youth group is catered for.

The Evidence is In: What's Working & Not in Youth Employment Programs in Low-Income Countries

USAID Bureau for Food Security

Most research reviews of the evidence on youth employment programs lump the experience of Germany and Guinea together, so they do not offer meaningful insights for low income countries. This session shared the latest evidence for the countries USAID and partners are working in. Based on a structural transformation perspective, Dr. Fox USAID’s Chief Economist, presents her research on what has actually worked in low income settings: evidence for vocation skills training is weak, where as the evidence for economic growth-oriented measures such as finance as well as for transferable skills and support programs is stronger and promising. We invite your questions and responses to: What does this mean for rural areas where income-earning opportunities for youth are in household farms and firms? How does this effect USAID’s approach to youth economic opportunities going forward?

Life Skills in Hard Places: The Youth L.E.A.D. Experiential Learning Technique for Life Skills and Financial Capabilities

Glasswing International, Citi Foundation

Youth in Central America face overwhelming challenges. In addition to poorly funded schools, inadequate access to secondary and tertiary education, and limited opportunities for employment, youth in El Salvador also confront epidemic levels of violence and a gang problem that challenge their day to day decision making process.

Are Labor Markets Really Local? Youth Training and Employment in Times of High Migration: Lessons from Colombia, Guatemala, and Kenya

ACDI/VOCA, RTI International, Fundacion Avina

The changing world of youth economic opportunity is heavily influenced by prevailing global trends in migration. Most workforce development (WFD) models assume youth recruitment and supports in a localized area, and training for employment in the same catchment zone.

Where's the VALUE for Youth In Agricultural Value Chains?

ACDI/VOCA, USAID, Chemonics International, Sing With Me Happily

As youth populations and unemployment swell to unprecedent