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.     

Advancing Labor Market Assessments

Despite widespread dialogue on youth employment challenges, and increasing attention to the evaluation of “what works” in youth employment programs, guidance is limited on how practitioners and workforce stakeholders can identify the driving constraints and opportunities within a specific country context.

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Soft Skills Symposium

Event host(s)/organization(s): 
Workforce Connections
Event Date: 
Jan 14, 2015 (09:00am to 05:00pm)

Child Trends will lead a two day consultative workshop to discuss core soft skills or competencies relevant for successful labor market outcomes in the context of international youth workforce development programs.


Labor Market Assessments Working Group Meeting: Workforce Development Systems

Event host(s)/organization(s): 
Workforce Connections
Event Date: 
Dec 10, 2014 (10:00am to 11:30am)

This working group will focus on Workforce Development Systems. We will discuss important considerations, existing approaches, challenges, and needs. Groups can also apply for small learning grants to support their research, tool development and testing, and other learning initiatives.

Labor Market Assessments Working Group Meeting: Segmenting Target Groups

Event host(s)/organization(s): 
Workforce Connections
Event Date: 
Dec 5, 2014 (10:00am to 11:30am)

This working group will focus on Segmenting Target Groups. We will discuss important considerations, existing approaches, challenges, and needs. Groups can also apply for small learning grants to support their research, tool development and testing, and other learning initiatives.

YSEALI Generation: Power of Human Capital Workshop (Singapore)

Event host(s)/organization(s): 
U.S. State Department, Count Me In, Making Cents International
Event Date: 
Dec 3, 2014 (All day) to Dec 7, 2014 (All day)
YSEALI Background
Recognizing that over 65 percent of the population in Southeast Asia is under the age of 35, the White House
launched the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) in December 2013 to augment leadership
development and networking in the 10 ASEAN countries; deepen engagement with young leaders across critical
sectors; and strengthen people-to-people ties between the United States and young leaders across the region.

Millennials for Hire: Transforming Talent into Workforce Competency

Online portals have the potential of providing a cost-effective and scalable solution to workforce development and livelihood issues, connecting job seekers and employers in a direct, immediate fashion. Do these portals have the foundation to provide real life impact on young people’s lives and the economy at large? In this session, at the 2014 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit, Brianna Bailey presented on the challenges and successes of JOVEN360’s professional development platform in Central America.

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