Workforce Development


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.1
  • 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.


Workforce Development: Blogs

Zhang's Decision: Life Skills in Action at a Chinese Vocational School

Originally posted by International Youth Foundation

"Now, do you agree with Zhang’s decision?"

I’m facing the white board at the front of the classroom, and behind me a straight line of quietly whispering students in matching blue and orange uniforms stretches out to the far wall. 

Youth Economic Opportunities Featured at USAID 2015 Global Education Summit

The USAID 2015 Global Education Summit brought together a broad array of stakeholders in the field of global education, including USAID education staff from Missions around the world, USG representatives, partner countries’ Ministries of Education, NGOs, think tanks, as well as thought leaders to review current best practices and demonstrate new and innovative approaches to global education. The Summit commemorated the momentum built under the current Education Strategy, and set a strong course for continued strategic investment in education.

Accelerating Pathways Youth Economic Strategy Index 2015

The Youth Economic Strategy (YES) Index seeks to provide policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders with comprehensive and comparative data on the economic situation of youth in the 35 cities it covers. The index aims to inspire policymakers, the private sector and civil society to improve opportunities for youth aged 13 to 25. Are cities providing the enabling environment that supports the economic aspirations of youth? Are they making the proper investments and policy decisions to support youth and enable them to reap youth-driven dividends in the future?

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Global Youth Wellbeing Index: A Vietnam Case Study

Vietnam’s achievements in reducing poverty, boosting the economy, and creating early gains in youth development make it a real success story. Yet according to the report you are about to read, that trajectory of growth and development can only be sustained with more targeted investments in the country’s younger generation—in such areas as marketable skills training, expanded civic engagement opportunities, and attention to the specific challenges facing Vietnamese young women.

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Building the Talent Pipeline: An Implementation Guide

This implementation guide builds on the foundation set forth in the 2014 white paper, Managing the Talent Pipeline: A New Approach to Closing the Skills Gap, which identified how employers could leverage lessons learned from supply chain management and apply them to their education and workforce partnerships.

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