Katy Vickland l Palladium - Aug 10 2021
Youth Empowering Youth in Green Jobs in Ethiopia

Konji and her group members learn about soil properties at Soil & More training with MS4G. 

International Youth Day is an annual reminder to celebrate the significant contributions youth make to their communities, economies, and nations around the world. This International Youth Day, the CATALYZE USAID/Ethiopia Market Systems for Growth (MS4G) Program is celebrating the many ways its Youth Advisory Board ensures the success of youth training for jobs in Addis Ababa in the green economy and other sectors.

MS4G is a USD 44 million, four-year program, implemented by Palladium, to build the capacity of Ethiopian institutions to grow the economy, create jobs, and train youth for those jobs. MS4G is a pioneer, and is the first to establish a Youth Advisory Board among Ethiopia’s USAID programs.

The MS4G Youth Advisory Board consists of three young women and a young man who advise MS4G on youth-related issues. The board engages in formal and informal consultation on activity design and implementation through in-person (safely, in accordance with COVID-19-safe procedures) and virtual meetings. The board has been particularly useful in supporting MS4G to develop demand-led training programs for youth to equip them for jobs and entrepreneurship.

Among their first contributions, the board members visited the skills training and placement centres on the MS4G team to empower youth with the specific skills needed to get targeted jobs. Following their visits, the board members provided advice to MS4G and the training centres.

From their perspective as young people just starting their careers and their businesses, Youth Advisory Board members highlighted the need for the types of services they themselves valued as they started their careers, or wished they could have received. Specifically, the members encouraged MS4G and the training centres to diversify training levels and strategies to meet the various needs of the youth, and to offer continuous mentoring and coaching during training and job placement. The visits were also a great opportunity for MS4G partners to understand the role of a youth advisory board in developing programming, and to consider applying similar best practices to their operations. The Board’s advice and guidance contribute significantly to MS4G’s success in equipping youth and placing them in jobs.

From Urban Parks to Entrepreneurship

Konjit Balcha, a 22-year-old mother of one, is part of a group of ten young people receiving training from MS4G to enter the green economy. For Balcha and her colleagues, maintaining urban parks and public spaces is an opportunity to start their own landscaping businesses. MS4G began by encouraging contractors such as Soil & More Ethiopia to identify job vacancies for which employers struggle to find qualified job applicants, and craft demand-led job training and placement programs.

Through Soil & More, MS4G is building the capacity of market-led workforce development service providers and equipping trainees with the relevant skills and attitudes that meet real-world performance expectations and contribute to inclusive growth. Balcha and the other trainees receive both theoretical and practical training from Soil & More. Soil & More, in partnership with the Eastern Africa Grain Council and the City of Addis Ababa, is one of three MS4G partners that signed a results-based contract to address youth unemployment through training and job placement.

Balcha explains how participating in USAID’s MS4G has improved her life, “About four months ago, I joined a youth group in my neighbourhood engaged in gardening and landscaping work. I was desperate to find a job since I have a daughter who is only one and a half years old, and I needed an income to provide for her.”

“When the city (Addis Ababa) connected us with Soil & More, we were very happy. I have learned a lot from them. I never knew how much plants contribute to climate change, and that landscaping is more than just taking care of plants and trimming overgrown hedges. We have learned soil preparation, how to use compost to improve garden soil, site design, and how we can make a successful business doing it,” adds Balcha.

Soil & More facilitates business licenses and registration for the youth to create their own businesses to serve this growing sector. And as they grow their businesses, the youth work in city parks and receive stipends from the Addis Ababa Riverside Green Development Agency.

To be successful, development organizations need to involve youth. The Youth Advisory Board provides a way for Ethiopian youth to share their leadership and insights so that MS4G and Ethiopia’s training centres offer the best possible services and Ethiopia’s unemployed youth can find jobs.

MS4G is committed to authentic youth engagement because evidence demonstrates that it leads to superior development outcomes. Palladium applies a Positive Youth Development (PYD) framework to programming, equipping youth with the skills and the belief they can set and achieve their goals; facilitating leadership opportunities for youth to make significant contributions to their communities; and enhancing the enabling environment so that employers, communities, and development programs recognise and celebrate youth contributions. Thanks to the PYD approach, the active engagement of the Youth Advisory Board, and taking a private sector-led approach to job training, MS4G is on track to reach its goals of building market systems for inclusive growth and youth job placement. For more information, contact info@thepalladiumgroup.com.