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.     

Global Employment Trends for Youth 2015: Scaling Up Investments in Decent Jobs for Youth

The youth employment crisis is easing, at least in terms of global trends…

After the period of rapid increase between 2007 and 2010, the global youth unemployment rate settled at 13.0 per cent for the period 2012 to 2014. At the same time, the number of unemployed youth declined by 3.3 million from the crisis peak: 76.6 million youth were unemployed in 2009 compared to an estimated 73.3 million in 2014.

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Cities of Opportunity: Drivers and Priorities for Urban Youth Economic Inclusion

Throughout history, cities have accelerated economic development and wealth creation around the world. In fact, the road to prosperity, it has been argued, inevitably runs through cities.1Though there is much heterogeneity among cities of various sizes and locales, the concentration of people, business, and services in urban areas generally allows for increased commerce, ideas and innovation.

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What Youths Could Teach World Leaders on Development Targets

Originally published by the Huffington Post on September 25, 2015. 

At the United Nations in New York today, world leaders are gathering to finalize the Global Goals -- the targets that will replace the Millennium Development Goals and shape trillions of dollars of spending over the next 15 years. There is much high-minded rhetoric here at the United Nations that development is all about people.

2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship Application

Selection Process

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is conducted as a merit-based open competition. After the deadline, all eligible applications will be reviewed by a selection panel. Chosen semifinalists will be interviewed by the U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries. If selected for an interview, applicants must provide a copy of their passport (if available) or other government-issued photo identification to verify eligibility.

Who is eligible to apply?

Solutions for Youth Employment: A Unique Way of Fostering Private Sector Involvement

A Good Job means equality. A Good Job means opportunity. A good job means excitement. A Good Job means sustainability. These are just a few of the descriptions of a “Good Job” that we heard from youth and others in attendance at last October’s launch event for Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) coalition.

It was at this event that S4YE unveiled a vision for a world where all youth have access to work opportunities that empower them to escape poverty, thus boosting shared prosperity worldwide. An urgent challenge.  A massive opportunity.  

African Innovation Award 2015


Are you between the ages of 18 & 40? Do you have a revolutionary idea in Education, Science & Technology, Agricultural/Agribusiness, Healthcare and Energy? How about a solution that can improve the lives of millions of people on the African continent?

EU Youth Report: Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship

The economic crisis in the European Union has dramatically changed the youth labour market to a degree that in almost all European countries, several years since the start of the crisis, young people are still facing unprecedented difficulties in finding a job. While youth unemployment was already quite high in 2011, during the following two years the situation deteriorated even further in most countries, with eleven of these registering their highest youth unemployment rate for the 15-24 age group either in 2012 or in 2013 (60).

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