Workforce program brings better jobs and wages for nearly 30,000 Afghans

By Evelyn Rupert

More than 43,800 Afghans are better equipped to excel in their careers after six years of the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program’s (AWDP) trainings, job placement and promotion support.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International, AWDP formally closed on June 26 with an event at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The event celebrated the program’s impact on thousands of Afghan workers and their employers and recognized the 53 organizations that were invaluable partners throughout implementation.

Creative’s Katy Vickland, Director of the Workforce Development and Youth Practice Area, attended the event and said the program’s legacy will continue to strengthen the private sector.

“AWDP has made a lasting impact on the workforce, particularly among young people who are current and future leaders in their industries,” she said. “While the project has reached its formal close, we look forward to seeing our partners carry on the work and ideas introduced here.”

See an example of AWDP’s impact on Afghan businesses and employees.

Demand-driven skills training

In close collaboration with USAID, the Afghan government and the private sector, AWDP improved the quality of existing training options and developed new demand-driven curricula based on employers’ needs that prepares workers with skills for the job market.

Overall, the program helped more than 28,000 mid-career and semi-professional workers and job seekers either find new employment or secure promotions with an average pay raise of over 3 percent.

The program worked across a wide range of industries—including sales, marketing, hospitality, construction, project management, information and communication technology and finance—sectors that were identified as priorities by the Afghan private sector employers.

Local partners – technical vocational education and business education skills training providers – built their capacity to work directly with the private sector to ensure that trainees are learning the skills that employers demand.

Loren Stoddard Office Director in the Office of Economic Growth of USAID Afghanistan said at the event that the professionalization of the workforce and strengthening of small- and medium-sized enterprises can benefit the country.

“Thank you all for the good work you have done with AWDP program for Afghanistan,” he said, addressing the grantees present. “Your role is very important for the growth of the economy in Afghanistan.”

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Small dairy production firms were able to expand their production and operation as their staff gained new management skills through AWDP.

Gender-inclusive programming

Gender inclusion was a central part of the program. Thirty-six percent of AWDP trainees and placements were female, far exceeding the initial target of 25 percent.

Creative’s Vickland said this achievement is remarkable in a country in which female participation in the labor force remains at less than 20 percent.

“Afghan women face many family and societal obstacles to finding work and advancing their careers,” she said. “AWDP’s commitment to working around these challenges allowed more than 10,200 women to find jobs or earn pay raises, of which 32 percent were previously unemployed.”

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With business training from AWDP, employees at a women’s weaving cooperative in Mazar-e-Sharif were able to expand business and employ more women weavers.

Focus on sustainability

AWDP’s partnerships with the government, the private sector, education institutions and training providers laid the groundwork for the progress made to continue well after closeout.

The program worked in close collaboration with its grantees to train them on the AWDP model and support them in reaching milestones.

The four-pillar Opportunities approach followed by AWDP – consisting of private sector demand assessments, training curriculum adaptation or development, training design and delivery, and employment-related services – was new to most of the program grantees.

Opportunities enables practitioners to identify and understand the labor market’s true workforce needs and then build local capacity to train and place individuals in those jobs. By meeting demand, Opportunities prepares individuals for rewarding work and supports the development of robust, inclusive economies across the globe.

With this model, the 53 technical and vocation institutes and business education skills providers who served AWDP as grantees now have a proven method to engage with the private sector, develop in-demand trainings and support trainees with job placements.

The program also supported the development of several university career counseling centers that will be able to assist graduating or recently graduated students in securing jobs.

See AWDP’s work in action:

With reporting by Aziz Gulbahari in Kabul.

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