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Youth Skills

Youth-led programs: A fresh perspective to solve youth unemployment

In Kenya, young people open small businesses to improve their communities such as this tea nursery and mushroom farm. Photo: <a href="">Salma Bahramy/Mercy Corps</a>
In Kenya, young people open small businesses to improve their communities such as this tea nursery and mushroom farm. Photo: Salma Bahramy/Mercy Corps

A new set of youth employment programs is built on the proposition that the best people to design such programs are young people themselves.

Rather than simply shelling out money and handing out jobs, projects funded under USAID's new youth policy give young people the chance to determine their potential roles in a developing labor market. Through market assessments and surveys, young people are learning firsthand the intricacies of their local labor market, developing essential skills, and identifying barriers between themselves and employers. Ultimately, youth are overcoming the stigma of their age that normally leaves them unemployable by exceeding expectations in the realms of communication and work ethic.

This strategy presents a more plausible and sustainable solution to the youth unemployment paradox that has left an overwhelming number of young people unemployed amidst ample job vacancies. Engaging young people in initial market assessments not only powers this research with youthful creativity, but also proves their capabilities in an labor market that is constantly evolving.

In her recent blog post on the Youth Economic Opportunities portal, Mercy Corps's economic and market development youth advisor Tara Noronha describes successes of involving youth in the initial market assessment of their community in Kenya, Liberia and Indian-administered Kashmir.

If we train youth with specific skills and do not link these activities to actual income opportunities, we are essentially setting them up to fail. This scenario can exacerbate existing frustrations that young people have about their economic situation and can create dangerous expectations in conflict and post-conflict areas.

RELATED: What is youth-led programming? How can it enhance economic programs for youth? by Tara Noronha, Mercy Corps, published on the Youth Economic Opportunities blog

RESOURCE: USAID Youth In Development Policy (pdf)

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