Bridging the Gap – Supporting Youth Employability


By Hester le Roux, Challenge Director, Business Fights Poverty

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new guide to business support for youth skills development. “Bridging the Gap: Supporting Youth Employability” was produced as part of the Business Fights Poverty Challenge on Youth Employability, which is supported by Anglo American, Barclays, BRAC, Citi, The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Pearson.

The Challenge considered what business can do, working with its partners at the country level, to boost youth employability and employment, and how to accelerate the level of business engagement with the ultimate objective of leveraging private sector resources to help reduce youth unemployment.

Why youth employability?

Youth unemployment is a global challenge. Youth jobless rates have been stuck around 13% for the past several years; that’s 71 million young people out of work.

Of those young people that do work, growing numbers find themselves in low-paid, unreliable and vulnerable jobs.  As many as 156 million young people around the world are working but living in poverty.  In developing countries, more than 70% of young workers fall below the poverty line.

Youth under- and unemployment comes at a high cost not - only for the young people concerned but also for their societies and economies: youth unemployment and poverty lead to lost revenue, increased social costs, and heightened inequality and social tension that can, in the worst case, threaten national and global security.

It therefore comes as no surprise that youth employment ranks high on the global development agenda. This is reflected in the SDGs, which specifically target youth jobs and skills.

While on the one hand young people struggle to find decent work, on the other we consistently hear that employers struggle to fill their vacancies because they cannot find candidates with the right aptitudes and skills.  

Limited “employability” is preventing many young people from taking up the good entry-level opportunities that do exist.

The private sector is a key driver of growth and large-scale job creation; but can also help young people get ready to take up available jobs

We believe business has a key role to play in addressing youth unemployment.  The private sector must drive the large-scale job creation required to absorb the one billion young people forecasted by the World Bank to enter the job market in the next decade.  But there is also much the private sector can do to help young people get ready for those jobs, from providing skills training to offering workplace experience.  

We launched the Youth Employability Challenge with the aim of adding to the knowledge base around what works, and continuing the conversation about how companies can best support young people into decent work while meeting core business needs.

Over a 9-month period, we conducted 30 interviews with practitioners and other experts to learn about different approaches to supporting young people into work, and about what works; hosted an online discussion about what skills young people need to be employable, and why so many lack these; held a business workshop to discuss the business case for investing in youth skills development; and had many conversations in various fora exploring these topics on greater depth.  

This guide captures the key messages shared by companies and their development partners during this engagement process. It is not a theoretical research paper but rather a gathering together of insights and practical tips around what works.

At the heart of the guide is a framework for developing youth skills development programmes. The focus is on skills for jobs, rather than entrepreneurship, another potential route to youth employment.  

Not a prescriptive guide, but a suggested approach for assessing demand and supply

Because employability is context-specific, depending on industry, culture, and other factors, the framework set out in the guide does not attempt to provide a one-size-fits-all solution, but instead proposes an approach to assessing demand and supply for skilled young people and designing a programme to fill the gaps.  

The guide includes practical tips, a selection of case studies illustrating different aspects of the approach, and recommended resources for further information.

You can download a copy of the guide from our download centre.

To accompany the guide, we have also created a wiki devoted to the Youth Employability Challenge. Full length versions of the case studies are available to download from the wiki.  We hope that practitioners and users of the guide will keep adding to our starter selection of case studies, as well as to the list of suggested resources relating to various aspects of youth employability and skills development, in an ongoing process of collaboration to expand the knowledge base of our community.

Since you’re here...

...why not join one of the many open collaboration Challenges we are running to address pressing global issues? Join your peers, share your passion and add your expertise!

Our Challenges are made possible thanks to our Supporters and Partners. If you’d be interested in supporting a current or new Challenge, please get in touch.

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