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.

BLOG: Cities as Drivers of Economic Opportunity for Youth

Making Cents International

According to the recently released United Nations report (“World Urbanization Prospects”), more than half of humanity now lives in cities. Today, 54% of the world’s population, 3.9 billion people, resides in urban areas, compared to only 30% back in 1950. The report predicts that cities will add an additional 2.5 billion people by 2050, with nearly 90% of this increase happening in Asia and Africa.

BLOG: Workforce Development: A shift into high gear


This year’s Workforce Development Track of the Making Cents conference saw more than a tenfold increase in proposal submissions and will feature a record number of panelists across nine distinct workforce themed panels. The lineup of proposals and participants provides terrific insight into the range and diversity of workforce issues that the development community and countries at large are grappling with, including public private partnerships, work-based learning interventions, soft-skills measurement, technology applications, career development practices and mentorship programs.     

BLOG: You(th) Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee: Finding Work for the Young Displaced in the Next Decade, September 2016

Barri Shorey, Senior Technical Advisor - International Rescue Committee

This month I will join the 10th Anniversary Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit (Sept. 28-30th, in Washington, DC). The theme of the Summit is, Turning Points: How Do We Achieve Results and Scale in the Next Decade? When asked by the Summit organizer Making Cents International to write about my perspective on achieving scale and results for young people in the next decade, my 10 years at The International Rescue Committee (IRC) immediately pushed me to think more specifically: how do we achieve scale and results for DISPLACED YOUTH in the next decade?  

REPORT: Rural Development Report 2016 Rural Development Report 2016-Fostering Inclusive Rural Transformation, September 2016

International Fund for Agricultural Development

Recent progress against poverty has been steady across the globe (fi gure A). But in most regions, poverty rates in rural areas still stand well above those in urban areas. These trends refl ect the continuing challenges facing rural areas linked to the social, economic and political marginalization of rural people. Small family farms dominate rural landscapes across the developing world, accounting for up to 80 per cent of food produced in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, while supporting livelihoods of up to 2.5 billion people (IFAD 2015). Yet these farmers face long-standing barriers to accessing technology, finance, knowledge and markets. At the same time, pressures on the rural natural resource base are growing, linked to population growth, unsustainable agricultural practices, urbanization, mining, land-use conversion and deforestation. 

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AWARD: Become a WFUNA Young Leader of the Year, September 2016

World Federation of United Nations Association

The World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA) is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Young Leader of the Year, an award launched in commemoration of the International Youth Day 2016. WFUNA supports and encourages youth engagement and participation in the United Nations Associations and United Nations Youth Associations around the world through the WFUNA Youth Network. With this initiative, they want to highlight the contributions of thousands of young people to their organization and share their achievements with a wider audience.

REPORT: Expanding Economic Opportunity for Youth Through Summer Jobs, September 2016


Every summer, millions of young people across the United States look forward to getting their first job—an important early work experience that can put them on the path to a meaningful career. Despite signs of an economic recovery, nearly 20 percent of young people who want to work cannot get jobs. Summer youth employment programs (SYEP) help to address this challenge by connecting youth to opportunities to build skills and gain work experience. However, most cities cannot keep up with the demand for positions, especially for summer jobs that are linked to career pathways.

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REPORT: Reducing Youth Unemployment in South Africa, September 2016

FSG and The Rockefeller Foundation

Youth unemployment not only limits the earnings potential and future prospects of a new generation of South Africans, it also stymies business growth, threatens social cohesion, and puts pressure on government resources. Yet data shows that there are half a million entry-level jobs vacant in the country, and with it, a real opportunity to expand economic inclusion. This paper looks at the efforts of government, employers, philanthropic funders, and training providers to bridge the gap between available jobs and first-time work-seekers.  It shows that the most impactful interventions take place when these actors join forces and highlights two examples of cross-sectoral partnerships: EOH Youth Job Creation Initiative and Mentec Foundation. 

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WEBINAR: Cross-Sectoral Skills for Youth, September 14, 2016

Sep 14, 2016 (10:00am to 11:00am)

Skills-building initiatives for youth have become a prominent component of youth development work in developing countries, working across a number of sectors and themes. However, ensuring participation of youth beneficiaries that are most likely to benefit from these skill-building initiatives remains a challenge for many. Some program implementers have taken deliberate steps to facilitate effective targeting, recruitment, and retention of youth in skills-based programs.

BLOG: Here Come the Young, September 2016

Foreign Policy

While countries across Europe and East Asia are grappling with declining birthrates and aging populations, societies across the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia are experiencing youth booms of staggering proportions: More than half of Egypt’s labor force is younger than age 30. Half of Nigeria’s population of 167 million is between the ages of 15 and 34. In Afghanistan, Angola, Chad, East Timor, Niger, Somalia, and Uganda, more than two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25.