Alex Collins & Rebecca Barbary - Aug 10 2023
International Youth Day and Supporting the Workforce of the Future

Demonstration kits for electrical and mechanical engineering TVET lecturers distributed at Elangeni College in South Africa.

In many countries, youth employment levels are abysmally low, threatening the economic future of both youth and their countries. According to the International Labor Organization, the share of youth not in employment, education, or training in 2020 (the latest year for which a global estimate is available) rose to 23.3%.

Harnessing the power of data to better align youth skills to workforce needs, demonstrate return on investment, and equip employees to use data in their day-to-day jobs, could be a critical answer in building the workforce of the future. And around the world, Palladium projects are utilising data to build better workforce development programs, generate evidence for further investments, and improve curriculum in continuing education courses, ultimately, with the goal of improving youth employment and job skills.

This International Youth Day, we're highlighting just a few of Palladium's many global projects that use data to support young people to better prepare for the workforce and sustainable employment. 

Creating Economic Opportunities

Many workforce development programs use data to capture information on employer needs and ensure their programs include skills to prepare youth to compete in today’s labor market. In Guatemala, Palladium worked with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions like the Intecap Technical Institute under USAID’s Creating Economic Opportunities project, training 16,000 18-30-year-olds from Guatemala City and towns in the Western Highlands in technical and soft skills to meet the needs of more than 400 employers across a variety of sectors.

The curriculum was tailored to employer needs based on a survey of 320 businesses about employment processes and their experience employing youth, to ensure that youth completing the program gained employment skills that the market demanded.

The employers partnered with the project and TVETs to determine the training content as well as sponsoring job fairs and re-orienting their human resources departments to better identify qualified candidates. Ultimately, the project connected 7,783 young people with jobs and created 54,000 jobs through their partnership with employers.

“Companies like ours usually have one or two people in HR departments,” explains one employer. “We don't have the staff to handle hundreds of CVs or the space to interview dozens of people in order to get the people we want as quickly as we want them.” Connecting with a pool of employees with the right skills for the job is crucial for companies like these.

Skills for Prosperity

A key challenge has been generating evidence to assure employers that their investment in skills development, whether it be time, expertise, or money, brings a positive return to their business. Skills for Prosperity (S4P) promotes the measurement of employer return on investment to ensure the continued engagement of employers in its activities, while incorporating gender equity, safeguarding, and social inclusion into the work with employers and educational institutions to ensure accessible and inclusive workplaces.

“To ensure the sustainability of workforce training programs after donor funding ends, S4P, the Palladium-led Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office-funded program uses evidence-based tools to convince employers to partner and engage meaningfully with the program,” says Hannah Gaventa, Palladium education and gender inclusion specialist. Since January 2020, S4P has worked across nine countries with a diverse range of implementing partners, employers, educational institutions, and governments, to ensure learners have quality and accessible education, gaining relevant skills for their future workplaces.

For example, in South Africa, S4P’s implementing partner the International Youth Foundation facilitated a partnership between the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers and the Department of Higher Education and Training by collecting and analysing quarterly labour market data from association members to understand ongoing skills needs and creating industry job placements for learners. Analysing the quarterly labour market data helps both bridge the gap between industry needs and the educational system and helps demonstrate the ROI and value businesses receive from contributing to the education system.

Data for Impact

In some sectors, the ability to understand and use data is one of the key requirements in workforce development training. After assessing the skills of social assistance professionals in Moldova and Armenia under USAID’s Data for Impact project, the team found that current staff in both countries showed low capacity in data analysis and data-informed decision-making. Similarly, the assessment found that recent graduates were underequipped with these skills when seeking employment with national and regional social assistance agencies.

The project awarded small grants to seven Moldovan and four Armenian universities, technical colleges, and other training institutions to review their current curriculum, resources, faculty, and methodologies in monitoring, evaluation, and learning. The teams in both countries also provided technical support to design new curricula to better equip the future social service workforce with these skills, whether managing benefits programs or working directly with children and families.

“Strengthening the capacities of local public authorities and territorial social assistance structures by D4I is very important for us because we could later on get from them reliable data and useful information that help us in the development of policies at national level,” says the Moldovan Secretary of State, Vasile Cușcă, further highlighting the importance of this work.

Utilising Data for Future Employment Opportunities

No matter what the field, from automotive manufacturing in South Africa to assessing the impact of a welfare program on children in Moldova, data use is key to connecting youth with employment opportunities and empowering them to use data in their day-to-day jobs.

Equipping the workers of tomorrow with the skills the market demands requires partnership across both public and private sectors, ensuring that youth are not only prepared for the future, but that organisations are also committed to developing these workers for sustainable employability.

Special thanks to Cassandra Ake and Mary Sherman. For more information, contact