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.     

TechChange Fellowship 2016

United States
North America
Closing date: 
Feb 1, 2016

Apply to be a Global Health Corps Fellow

Global Health Corps
Closing date: 
Feb 2, 2016

Bridging the Gap

Event host(s)/organization(s): 
Federal Reserve Banks of Cleveland and Philadelphia/The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Event Date: 
Dec 2, 2015 (10:00am to 03:30pm)

Hosted by the Federal Reserve Banks of Cleveland and Philadelphia and The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the conference will share emerging strategies to bridge the unemployment gap for young people between the ages of 16 to 24. National and local experts will highlight practices, such as apprenticeships and other employer-led models, to reengage with disconnected youth. They will also consider the additional information needed to better inform policy and recommend new partnerships and resources to extend greater opportunity for young people.

A draft agenda can be viewed below.

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?

Resource Type: 

Call for Application - 2016 WISE Awards!

Closing Date:

Jan 11, 2016

Submission period now open until 13.00 GMT January 15, 2016

The 2016 WISE Awards will identify, celebrate, and promote six innovative projects for their positive contribution to education and society. The Awards highlight initiatives found to be most creative and effective in finding solutions to education challenges at any level and in all environments. In bringing forward these models; WISE is helping build a network of recognized change-makers to inspire change in education. 

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.

Resource Type: 

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.

Resource Type: 


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