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.

Facilitating Youth Success in Context: Using Systemic Approaches to Create Opportunities in the Informal Economy

Global Communities, Overseas Development Institute, Berock Ventures Limited

The construction sector is booming around the world, providing lucrative employment opportunities for young people. However, construction work takes place primarily in the informal sector in many places. How can systems thinking be applied to better prepare youth to take advantage of this growth?

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Enabling the Enabling Environment: Fostering Adult and Peer Relationships to Support Youth Development

Save the Children, FHI 360, Search Institute

Youth succeed when they have adequate support systems in place that encourage socioeconomic success. The enabling environment refers to the people in a child's life that model the key skills for success later in life. How can parents, mentors, teachers and employeers interact with youth without stifiling individual development?

Search Institute establishes a framework for influential figures in a child's life, while Save the Children and FHI360 demonstate how this framework can be practically applied.

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Does Your Soft Skills Curriculum Measure Up? Research-based Tools for Evaluating Your Soft Skills Curriculum or Creating a New One

World Learning

Soft skills refer to the personal habits that lead to success in both the workforce and in interpersonal relationships. This training workshop demonstrated how to teach soft skills, provide detailed information on which specific soft skills lead to employment, and encourage collaborative learning with other practictioners. Readers are encouraged to develop their own soft skill teaching plan based on the pedagogical principles presented.

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UNICEF’s Global Framework on Skills: From Theory to Practice


Young people are not developing the skills they need to be successful in the workforce. UNICEF proposes that a holistic approach to skill building strengthens youth confidence and has a higher success rate than a static approach. This idea is  demonstrated by UPSHIFT, a flagship UNICEF workshop that teaches marginalized youth the skills necessary to becoming social innovators and entrepreneuers. This presentation establishes UNICEF's research on youth workforce preparedness and provides case studies on the UPSHIFT Program's success in Kosovo and Jordan.

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The Samasource Freelance Agency: A Low-cost & Scalable Model for Giving Work in Complex Geographies


Samasource has set up sustainable impact sourcing centers in East Africa and India, but these are costly and complex to run, requiring sales and operations teams and high-end, secure infrastructure. To prepare more youth for the future of work, our freelance agency proves out a lighter-weight model can also be successful for giving work. The Samasource agency provides freelance skills training to youth with basic digital skills, and helps them get work online.

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Tools for Youth-Driven Learning: Essential Skills Development and Measurement for a Changing World of Work

Creative Associates, IREX

Creative Associates and IREX presented tools to measure youth self-efficacy and to empower youth in their own learning processes. The self-efficacy tool is designed to be specific yet flexible enough to capture changes in youth across 15 communities in three countries that are exposed to a holistic suite of interventions for violence prevention and workforce development. The self-efficacy measure was identified as useful across programming to reduce youth participation in violence.

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BLOG: Quality Apprenticeships: Life-changing experiences

Work in Progress, International Labour Organization

Originally published on iloblog.org

Ashwani Aggarwal, Team Lead (Work based Learning, Apprenticeships and Recognition of Prior Learning), ILO

YouthPower Learning Webinar: Strategies for Engaging Youth Refugees: Lessons from Niger

YouthPower Learning
Jun 13, 2018 (09:00am to 10:00am)

Strategies for Engaging Youth Refugees: Lessons from Niger

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
9 a.m. to 10 a.m. (EDT)

Tech & Innovation for Employment

Mercy Corps
May 23, 2018 (08:00am to 06:00pm)

Mercy Corps’ Youth Impact Labs in partnership with Google.org are joining forces to host an event that will bring together thought leaders in technology and innovation for youth employment in Eastern Africa. We will meet in an intimate gathering to explore how tech-enabled solutions can unlock opportunities for youth entrepreneurship and employment in the region and beyond.

Building an Evidence Base on Rural Youth Employment and Livelihoods

Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD); Feed the Future; USAID
May 8, 2018 (All day)

The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) and USAID are pleased to invite the food and agricultural research community, global development practitioners and donors, and U.S. Government interagency partners to participate in a public meeeting on the evidence base on rural youth employment and livelihoods. The public meeting will be held in Washington, DC on May 8, 2018.