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.


OP-ED: Why Is Technology Skills Training Critical to Low-Income Youth Now?

Originally posted on, September 22, 2014.

BLOG: Cities as Drivers of Economic Opportunity for Youth

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.     

Webinar Recording: Leveraging Labor Market Assessment Tools to Address the Youth Unemployment Challenge

USAID’s Workforce Connections (WC) is a program that promotes evidence-based learning and peer-to-peer knowledge exchange with the goal of improving the capacity of USAID and its industry partners to deliver quality workforce development programming. One of WC’s activities has been the creation of labor market assessment (LMA) tools. These tools have been used to help inform program design in Lebanon, Kenya, and, most recently, in Zimbabwe, where the LMA team assessed overall economic trends and patterns, the resulting demand for skills, and the supply of workers and skills.

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National Opportunity Summit

Event host(s)/organization(s): 
Opportunity Nation
Event Date: 
Feb 25, 2015 (All day) to Feb 26, 2015 (All day)

The National Opportunity Summit on February 25-26, 2015 in Washington, D.C. will unite a bipartisan, cross-sector group of business leaders, nonprofits, elected officials, and young people around the urgent crisis of youth unemployment and its impact on opportunity in America.

The Summit will feature proven solutions that can be taken to scale, powerful examples of collaboration that are equipping youth to succeed, chances to network and build partnerships across sectors, and a call to action we will all take forward from the event.

Apply for the 2015 Andrew E. Rice Award

The Andrew E. Rice Award for Leadership and Innovation by a Young Professional in International Development (Rice Award) recognizes the achievements of an exceptional young professional working in the field of international development.

The Future of Youth Employment

The workplace landscape for disadvantaged youth in the United States is more precarious than it has been at any other time in the past eighty years. According to a June 2013 report by the Center for American Progress, 22.5 percent of teens ages 16 to 19 are unemployed, and 1.4 million teens are neither enrolled in school nor working. Young people in general can have a hard time positioning themselves with employers due to age, shortage of experience and maturity, and lack of education and skills. Certain subpopulations face even greater barriers due to factors including race, sex, and socioeconomic status.

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Innovations in Youth Hiring

Across the United States, small businesses are developing innovative strategies to hire and upskill young workers in ways that are both good for business, and that reduce the unemployment hardships that disproportionately impact disadvantaged young people. 

With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a nation-wide search to identify creative youth-hiring models and approaches embraced by small businesses.

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Zimbabwe Labor Market Assessment

Recently the FHI 360 Workforce Connections project conducted a L

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Reassessing Soft Skills for Work Readiness

Event host(s)/organization(s): 
Workforce Connections
Event Date: 
Mar 12, 2015 (All day)

The Workforce Connections team including Child Trends and FHI 360 will be presenting a session on "Reassessing Key "Soft Skills" for Work Readiness: Priorities for Global Humanistic Education" at the 2015 Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society. The session will be presented by Laura Lippman of Child Trends, Rachel Carney of Child Trends, Kristin Brady of FHI 360 and Jacqueline Karau, Youth Representative.


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