Staff Writer l Palladium - Nov 08 2023
Empowering Youth and Creating Economic Opportunities: A UNGA Discussion

Palladium's Katy Vickland speaks on a panel. 

How can we connect youth to economic opportunities at scale? Around the world, tens of millions of young people are unemployed and out of school. How can we create jobs and livelihoods, and empower youth with the skills they need to seize them?

Palladium’s Director of Youth, Education and Workforce Development Katy Vickland spoke on this topic at a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Side Event on 22 September. More than 120 leaders and innovators from around the world gathered at One World Trade Center in New York City for two hours of spirited discussion and evidence sharing.

The event was co-sponsored by the WISE Qatar Foundation, which is dedicated to unlocking human potential, and Goodwall, a skills social network that links 2 million young people globally to learn and earn through access to short courses, networking, and job opportunities. WISE Director and panel moderator Elyas Felfoul set the tone by laying out the significant challenges facing youth, including disengagement from both education and employment – leading to myriad negative outcomes including poverty, stagnant economies, and a lack of civic engagement.

He asked each panelist to share a success story, as well as the biggest misconception about successfully preparing youth for jobs.
In response, Vickland spoke of Palladium’s systemic approach to connecting youth to opportunities at scale, and addressed the misconception that skilling alone can create sufficient jobs and opportunity. “At Palladium, we catalyse inclusive growth partnerships to prepare and empower youth to earn, innovate, and lead,” she explained “We harness donor and corporate funding to bring together employers, financial institutions, business advisory service providers, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), educational institutions, and relevant government ministries to spark job-rich growth and create jobs.”

Vickland added that a lot of the solutions used across programs work to strengthen access to and relevance of local education and training in universities, vocational schools, industrial parks, and businesses and business associations, to prepare youth with the skills needed to get the jobs.

During the panel and in lengthy conversations with the audience afterwards, she provided multiple examples of such partnerships, including the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE), Palladium’s US$150 million Dutch-funded program that is creating, matching, or improving over 260,000 jobs for youth in 11 countries across Africa. Our Ugandan social enterprise CFYE grantee Ecobrix is creating 3,000 jobs for Resource Recovery Agents to recycle plastic waste, thereby fighting poverty and addressing environmental issues.

In addition, the Palladium-managed Kenya Investment Mechanism has successfully used this approach to leverage US$35 million from USAID with US$644 million in blended financing to create over 3,000 jobs.

Panelist Taha Bawa, co-founder and CEO of social enterprise Goodwall, emphasised the value of peer learning in their successful app which functions as a mix of LinkedIn, Facebook, and learning platforms, connecting youth at scale with opportunities to learn, work, and network. And panelist Lydiah Demunto Bosire, Founder and CEO of 8B Education Investments, highlighted the value of innovative financing for African students to study at US Universities. In her final comments, Vickland emphasised the value of each of these elements in strengthening local systems to create jobs and prepare youth for successful careers.

The UNGA Side Event provided an opportunity for Palladium to engage with dozens of stakeholders across governments, NGOs, donors, corporate partners, and educational institutions to address the global challenge of youth unemployment through inclusive growth and workforce development.

Having this topic raised at the UNGA level means that global leaders, donors, and businesses are prioritising youth economic empowerment at scale. “Now is the time for us to take advantage of this high level of interest to share evidence on what works and ensure all our programs embed, adopt, and adapt good practices to maximise positive impact on youth employment through inclusive growth partnerships,” Vickland concludes.

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