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: Youth in Eritrea Gain Skills to Unlock Employment Opportunities, Oct 2016


Eritrea faces wide scale youth unemployment, pushing many young people to brave their chances and migrate in search of better opportunities.  To address these issues, a project by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS), with financial support from Norway, Japan and UNDP, is providing youth with vocational skills and training to help them find jobs. The trainings take six months and range from graphic design to metalwork, woodwork, beekeeping, hairdressing, pottery and electric installation. 

BLOG: How Might we Expand Economic Opportunities for Youth in East Africa? Oct 2016


In the Youth Empowerment Challenge we are collaboratively designing solutions that expand economic opportunities for youth in East Africa. The continent of Africa is home to more young people than anywhere else on Earth. Youth in Africa have the potential to unleash the economic power of the continent – and lift millions out of poverty – but only if they have access to the skills, information and resources they need to achieve economic stability.

BLOG: This Year’s Big Moment for Youth Data: The 2016 Edition of the Youth Development Index, Oct 2016

Youth Policy

The 2016 Youth Development Index – now the only global index exploring the specific situation for children and young people – has launched at Australia House in London. While 142 countries improved their scores, the index sees big changes in the global rankings – including in the top spots – and offers a renewed challenge to policy-makers to ensure they continually respond to young people’s needs. The 2016 YDI is a tough reminder: when it comes to youth, no country can afford to be complacent.

SCHOLARSHIP: Master's Program in Information Technology and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Oct 2016

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)

Are you looking to make a mark in the technology industry in Africa or know someone who is? Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is accepting applications for 2017 intake in its master's degree programs in Information Technology and Electrical and Computer Engineering in Kigali, Rwanda! CMU is committed to enabling the next generation of African innovators hone their skills in technology, engineering and strategy so that they can compete on a global level. This is an opportunity worth pursuing or sharing!

WORKSHOP: Call for Applications: Arab States Regional Workshop on Peacebuilding, Dec 2016


Are you engaged in activities to build peace and reduce violence in your community or country? Have you been dedicated to conflict resolution or mediation at a regional, national or local level and are seeking to exchange experiences with peers from other countries in the Arab region? If yes, this is a good opportunity for YOU! Apply now to share your experience and learn from others by participating in a fully-funded Youth Peacebuilding Workshop, coordinated by UNDP and UNESCO on behalf of the United Nations Arab Regional Inter-Agency Technical Task Team on Young People (UN IATTTYP) and co-organized with the Peacebuilding Support Office and UNFPA from 4 to 7 December 2016 in Amman, Jordan.

REPORT: Bridging the Skills Gap: Insights from Employers, Educators, and Youth in Latin America and the Caribbean, Oct 2016

FHI 360, Results for Development (R4D)

Bridging the Skills Gap: Insights from Employers, Educators, and Youth in Latin America and the Caribbean presents the findings of a 10-month investigation of the secondary education school-to-work transition and trends in youth employability in Colombia, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. These three countries were selected to ensure representation of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. With support from the FHI Foundation, FHI 360 and Results for Development Institute (R4D) led this study to advance an understanding of the skills gap that prevents companies from finding qualified candidates to employ. 


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PRESENTATION: Making Education Work: How to Leverage Education Reform to Include Workforce Development Solutions, Sep 2016

Educate, Aflatoun, INJAZ

Learn what it takes to scale workforce development solutions through the education system! This session will feature Educate!, Aflatoun, and INJAZ Jordan. These NGOs have effectively worked with governments globally to integrate proven solutions into curriculum, teacher training and assessment policies. Their work specifically focuses on the areas of enterprise development, financial literacy. Each panelist will present a practical strategy, such as policy stakeholder engagement, education reform process mapping, and effective teacher training. This session is meant to promote partnerships between implementers and policy makers so that effective solutions to work force development can be scaled through the education system.

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