In much of the developing world, youth unemployment approaches 50 percent – a level sure to contribute to disaffection, radicalization, and disharmony. But this pool of energetic, untapped talent offers a wide range of opportunities to private firms and foundations looking to engage with you in development activities.
In the agriculture sector, we have created youth-led Producer Organizations (POs) giving youth members access to Voluntary Savings and Loans (VSLAs) to fund expansion of farm enterprises. “Bulking” is allowing youth to sell directly to the private sector. Youth are also accessing entrepreneurship opportunities, and linked with private sector companies which will offer them additional opportunities for the future.
Youth also generate income from selling items they produce and they can work on establishing savings and credit groups. Youth are encouraged to join existing coops/producer organizations, form their own cooperatives, or they may choose to use their skills to become a successful farmer or establish a business. Work has included skills-building (both life/leadership skill and vocational/technical training), mentorships and peer to peer support, as well as internships/apprenticeships to bolster experience and professional skills, and job placement services.
We have provided comprehensive literacy training, integrating nutrition, financial literacy and entrepreneurship, and peacebuilding themes, formal vocational training programs in trades such as masonry, carpentry, auto mechanics, and hospitality and we link young people with individual companies to expand relevant training and education in rural communities.
Other examples of youth focused work carried out by VEGA members include: identifying talented young people with interest in the creative industries from local learning institutions and businesses, and working with young artisans, to help them learn about design based on market demand. We have established Community Youth Employment Centers to promote employability, entrepreneurship and provide employment services to youth, including improving entrepreneurial capacities of young women and men, as well as the policies, regulations and enabling environment required to create jobs and economic opportunities
Our efforts have helped youth to gain self-esteem and a voice in their community, through learning skills that are valuable alternatives to engaging in criminal activities and violence, and contribute to economic development. We have provided support for the creation of municipal crime/violence prevention committees that seek to foster coordination among police, and other governmental, nongovernmental, and private-sector stakeholders with a role in addressing the causes of crime and violence.
VEGA members’ work has placed unemployed university graduates in science, engineering, and business administration in internships in small and medium enterprises. Interns received significant practical training. Also we have managed vocational training and certificate program for post-secondary students, focusing on agribusiness skill development and farm management, and designed standardized core agribusiness curricula with emphases on developing skills in agricultural mechanics, livestock/animal husbandry, agribusiness, horticulture, computers and English. Students learn how to run agriculture production businesses, and about decision-making and risk-taking. They also gain work experience in domestic agriculture and the food industry.
On other programs, we have connected young people with innovative financial products and services that build their economic prosperity; improve their financial literacy, entrepreneurialism and business skills; and lead to a better quality of life, for themselves and their families. Our work supports education and training opportunities for youth to ensure improved long-term prospects and to contribute to a higher-quality workforce. We help increase youth access to loans and savings and support financial service providers – including MFIs and banks in developing financial products appropriate to economically active youth and to providing on-the-job experience through short placements in safe, appropriate and active businesses.