What Works in Youth Employment and Skills Development?
On February 21st and 22nd, we participated in the Youth@Work conference held in Jordan and organized by the International Youth Foundation. We were amongst 400 other regional and international stakeholders from the MENA region, all looking for ways to improve education and employment prospects for young people. The conversations were rich, bold and conveyed urgency for solutions.
How can we identify, scale up and mainstream youth employability models that have proven success? Existing education curricula leave millions of young people unprepared for the marketplace. There is a need for careful match-making between public and private institutions, and education programs that are closely linked with market demands. At a government level, what role do Labour and Education Ministries need to play to transform curricula?
We were keen to hear what participants had to say about soft skills development, as a number of our projects at the Foundation incorporate skills development. A recruiter from Hilton Hotels International defined soft skills as, “The ability to communicate, to learn and listen and to deal with conflict, work ethics, leadership, ability to take responsibility, respectfulness and loyalty.” As the Foundation’s projects progress, we are learning that these types of skills can improve job readiness and completion rates in education. Many participants pointed to Education for Employment and International Youth Foundation models as best practices in skills development – both of which are partners of the Foundation.
There was also emphasis on high-quality career counselling – from teachers, mentors, parents, coaches and peers. It helps students identify their interests, build on their self-awareness and enhance their employability. It also creates a support network that can have a transformative impact – this is something we hear often from young people in our programs. One of the participants at the conference summed it up well: “Career guidance is a long corridor with many doors. The sooner you help young people start moving through the corridor, the more doors will open and they can avoid being at risk.”
We were pleased to see that young people played an important role at the conference. The panel titled, “Where do we go from here?” was led by five young social entrepreneurs from the region. One of the panellists, Amr Sobhy who is an Anzisha Prize finalist, has written a blog in which he reflects on how entrepreneurs, cities, municipalities and local authorities can be engines of employment.
The conference was a great learning opportunity for the Foundation. We were able to hear first-hand, the important dialogue taking place in the region. The commitment to enable young people to have better and brighter futures is pervasive. There is tremendous opportunity for us to learn from each other to figure out what works.