Youth Employability “One Size” Approaches Do Not Fit All

By Eric Rusten, Magdalena Fulton and Elizabeth Mullen

September 21, 2012   |   0 comments

Eric Rusten, Magdalena Fulton and Elizabeth Mullen (Washington, DC)


Last week, Creative was thrilled to sponsor and participate in the 2012 Making Cents Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference at the Inter-American Development Bank. 

The Founder and CEO of Making Cents, Fiona Macaulay, opened up this dynamic, one of a kind global youth event by inviting attendees to share their “secret sauce” for success to further our commitment to impact the world’s 1.8 billion youth by increasing and improving their economic opportunities.

The two-and-a-half day event brought together 420 individuals from 53 countries, funders, researchers, practitioners, policymakers, private sector, and young people to discuss innovative approaches to solving the urgent challenges facing young people.

In a vibrant introductory plenary session, representatives from the ILO, HP, and Mexico’s Ministry of Youth kicked-off the conference with keynote addresses to share youth unemployment trends, highlight the critical role of youth employment in social development, and present a vision of the future.

The conference broke into five tracks: 1. Workforce Development, 2. Financial Services & Capabilities, 3.  Enterprise Development, 4. Adolescent Girls & Young Women, and 5. Monitoring & Evaluation which were designed to encourage the participants to exchange best practices, lessons learned, and the latest research and tools guiding our work.

A major highlight of the conference was the “Youth for Youth Advocacy” plenary where three young women took the stage to share how young people globally have the power to support one another when given the opportunity and space to express themselves.

Today’s youth unemployment statistics are staggering. Of the 1.2 billion people between the ages of 15 to 24 years old, 90% percent live in developing countries. More than 55% of them in Asia. By 2050, the youth population is expected to surge to roughly half of the world population – these young people will eventually enter the global labor force. In both developing and developed countries, young people make up a large percentage of un- and under-employment statistics, or are so discouraged they have abandoned the labor force entirely. Young people that are disconnected from the world of work are often vulnerable to risky behaviors such as violence, drug addiction and gang activity – threatening societies and resulting in long-lasting “scarring effects” on young people.

With this context in mind, the team from Creative led a dynamic and provocative session that explored the workforce training need of disaffected and marginalized youth in conflict affected environments.  The workshop style of this session aimed to demonstrate that When It Comes to Youth Employability – “One-Sized Approaches” Do Not Fit All.  The session zeroed in on how the increasing demand for scalable youth programs that enable thousands of young people to complete costs, at a lower cost per participant, is resulting in homogenized activities. While these one-size-fits-all programs may work for some, Creative has increasingly found that these approaches are not necessarily appropriate for the growing number of at-risk youth in difficult conflict and crisis environments.  Using a case from Guatemala and El Salvador, Creative’s team presented a model for holistic programming using proven approaches and activities that enable youth to transform their lives, create positive futures and positively influence the larger social, economic and political environment.

Forums like the Youth Economic Opportunities Conference are a prime opportunity for youth advocates to learn from one another, refine our approaches and work together to develop programs that truly impact young people. The need to close the “hope gap” and provide youth with economic opportunities that allow them to thrive in today’s complex world is great and events like this conference reenergize us, empower us with shared knowledge, and remind us that the challenge is not insurmountable.

We invite you to visit http://www.youtheconomicopportunities.org/ to learn more and to share your expertise with fellow practitioners.