Globally, 38 per cent of employers have difficulties filling jobs due to a lack of skills among applicants and yet 71 million young people are unemployed. Young women, Youth with Disabilities, and those in rural areas are disproportionately represented in these statistics.
The European Development Days (EDD) took place in Brussels on June 18-19, 2019. This year, there were more than 8,000 participants from around the world attending the event, under the theme of Addressing inequalities: building a world which leaves no one behind.
The EDD lab debate, Flexible skills development for vulnerable young people: Innovative approaches to increase technical and vocational education and training and labour market access among young women, youth with disabilities and rural youth provided the opportunity for implementers and donors to share experiences of best practices and lessons learned.
The debate, hosted by Humana People to People and moderated by Edukans, included panellists from Development Aid from People to People Malawi (DAPP Malawi), the Turing Foundation, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), and the Addax & Oryx Foundation.
Participants discussed strategies to address the individual and socioeconomic contexts in which vulnerable young people live to facilitate effective economic inclusion and decent work opportunities.
There were several key points shared by the panel and the audience:
Marginalised people need flexible options. Course content and length must be adjusted to meet student needs, interests, and availability. The Turing Foundation supported a project implemented by The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) in Sierra Leone that enrolled women in a three-year distance learning course; the course also included practical experience. The women were compensated for their costs and provided with coaching and guidance. DAPP Malawi provides creative and flexible options to make training opportunities more accessible, such as mobile training, satellite training, and direct community outreach.
Organising internship programmes with local firms increases likelihood of students getting jobs. Internships provide students with experience as well as market and employability skills. In Guinea-Bissau, the Addax & Oryx Foundation saw this in action: 28 per cent of trainees in a project found employment after course completion, but this number rose to 48 per cent for those who had accessed internships.
It is important that courses include life and business skills and learning how to work as a team. A holistic, integrated training that provides students with hard and soft skills can build youth capacity to secure and maintain dignified employment. Youth also must learn to work collaboratively and to seek support when needed. DAPP Malawi organizes students into groups of three (‘Trios’) to create a supportive team among youth. In Tanzania, VSO established two centres that train youth in vocational entrepreneurship skills. These centres connect youth and companies so youth gain work experience through internships and career opportunities. In rural Madagascar, the Addax & Oryx Foundation supported recent college graduates to receive 1-on-1 counselling. Three times a year, graduates also met to share experiences and discuss issues.
The number of dropouts can be reduced through targeted organisation of courses. The Addax & Oryx Foundation has found that several approaches are needed for strong vocational training: longer courses, shorter trainings, and in-service training. And ensuring the collaboration of a wide range of stakeholders – youth, businesses, government, communities, entrepreneurs, and civil society – further solidifies a project’s impact and sustainability.
Training needs to be linked to real job opportunities in the business world. The private sector must be engaged to ensure that TVET course content matches current labour market needs and opportunities. Action on Poverty, in partnership with the Turing Foundation, worked with entrepreneurs in rural areas of Sierra Leone. The project provided training and worked with communities to manage a revolving fund. This fund allowed entrepreneurs access to start-up financing to grow their businesses, and then supported the next group of budding entrepreneurs. Regarding gender-neutral job opportunities, challenges remain. All panellists agreed on the importance of mobilizing women for male–dominated fields and vice-versa. But the reality on the ground is that women and men struggle to break into male/female-dominated fields.
TVET is crucial for economic development but remains underfunded and under supported. Certain populations – including Youth with Disabilities, young women, and rural youth – continue to face challenges in accessing quality TVET programmes. Integrating labor market needs into the TVET system is essential. Economic growth will depend on investment in better occupational skills both for young people and the existing workforce. Working together to improve TVET, the private and public sectors can contribute towards more equitable, inclusive and sustainable societies and economies.
Elizabeth Chiappa is Programme Coordinator at Humana People to People
The entire discussion can be heard here: