Preparing young people for employment and entrepreneurship


World Youth Skills Day 2022

Youth Conservation Corps, Bangladesh can equip school dropouts with skills to earn a living

Bangladesh has been struggling with unemployment since its inception. Source: LSE

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World Youth Skills Day 2022

Bangladesh has been struggling with unemployment since its inception. Source: LSE

July 15 marks World Youth Skills Day (WYS), and this year’s slogan for the day is “Transforming Youth Skills for the Future”. WYS Day has been celebrated on July 15 every year since 2014 after the United Nations announced it. This time, the day will be observed amid concentrated efforts towards socio-economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and challenges related to climate change, conflict, persistent poverty, rising inequality, global change. rapid technological change, demographic transition, etc. The objective of this day is to “celebrate the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship”, according to the UN.

Bangladesh has been struggling with unemployment since its inception. According to the World Bank (2020), the unemployment rate is 5.30% of the total labor force. One of the underlying reasons for this problem is the high school dropout rate, which represents 32% of the total population, according to the Labor Force Survey (2016-2017). About 80% of these young people live in rural areas. The dropout rate peaks in grade 8, when 14.6% of boys and girls drop out of school (Unicef ​​Bangladesh, 2017). These dropouts join the informal sector or remain unemployed. Young job seekers in Bangladesh face huge challenges in transitioning from school to work due to a lack of in-demand skills, experience, youth-friendly job opportunities and job opportunities. limited career guidance.

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With this in mind, the Community Partnerships to Strengthen Sustainable Development (Compass) project of the United States Forest Service/International Programs and USAID has established a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) in Bangladesh. Through a six-month training, the program engages disadvantaged and marginalized out-of-school youth to instill vocational and soft skills, while developing environmental stewardship and securing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. The program was modeled after the US Youth Conservation Corps, which is implemented in different countries like Honduras, Colombia and Cambodia. In Bangladesh, the project was contextualized with several year-long activities, such as a virtual study tour to see global practices, a local stakeholder consultation workshop, and a youth and labor market study . The Youth and Labor Market Study was commissioned to understand Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP), employment status, skills gap, viable income generating activities (IGA) and employment challenges. long standing as well as the impact of Covid and its way forward. The study used a mixed-methods approach, which included a rapid appraisal survey, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews.

Of the young people surveyed, 194 (66 percent) of respondents are currently unemployed, 77 (26 percent) belong to NEETs, 15 (five percent) were previously employed but currently unemployed, and only eight respondents (three percent) cent) are employed at gift. This denotes that young people find it difficult to find employment opportunities, which could imply obstacles and challenges for them.

Of the 294 respondents, only 51 (17%) said they had received training, while 243 (83%) had received no training. This demonstrates a lack of availability of training or awareness of training, and indicates a lack of presence of government and NGO actors. This also explains why there is a large proportion of respondents who are unemployed.

Additionally, 279 respondents (95%) were interested in finding better opportunities for themselves, while 12 (four percent) said they weren’t interested and three (one percent) said they would consider it. It depicts the eagerness and enthusiasm of young people to improve their skills and learn new ones in hopes of getting better job opportunities. Young people prefer to receive more training on the development of soft skills related to communication, teamwork, time management, conflict management, professional motivation and leadership development.

Challenges and way forward

Existing perceptions of the local population

One of the challenges facing a skills development program concerns the existing perceptions of the local population. Due to a lack of education and awareness, many people are unaware of the importance of the soft skills needed to thrive in business. Most business owners think it is enough to have the minimum technical skills needed for their business, and they ignore soft skills such as literacy and numeracy, communication skills, conflict management , etc. Therefore, it is important to involve local communities in the program. Organizing sensitization meetings and consultations with community members, youth, local administration and job providers would be an effective strategy.

Photos: Youth Conservation Corps, Bangladesh

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Photos: Youth Conservation Corps, Bangladesh

Lack of motivation and confidence of young people

Another challenge to note is to create and maintain the motivation, confidence and perseverance of young people. We have found that young people lack motivation and confidence if they do not receive the right guidance and support. Seeking employment opportunities, especially at a younger age, and with the added responsibility of providing for the family, can be a daunting task. Those who took part in our project did not necessarily take the plunge by looking for a job afterwards. Therefore, follow-up is crucial. We estimate this includes mentoring support for six months post-training. The YCC has created an alumni platform that facilitates follow-up and offers voluntary support for professional integration.

Social constructions of gender

The way gender has been socially constructed in our society is an obstacle to the participation of men and women in IGAs. Based on interviews and focus group discussions with participants, both gender groups consider that certain activities are specifically aimed at particular gender groups. When asked which IGAs are best suited for women, men in a focus group said that sewing is most suitable for women because they can do it while staying at home. Of course, they cannot do heavy work.

Even after completing crèche training, female graduates did not receive family support to start a crèche because of their gender. To solve this problem, the YCC engaged parents from the beginning when the selected trainees chose their trades/vocational subjects. We also found that organizing gender education training gave confidence and motivation to the trainees as well as their parents.

Connection with Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) and supply chain actors

The study found that 59% of respondents relied on family and friends, while 15% relied on their personal savings to start their business. This reveals that access to finance is limited; accumulating personal funds takes time and taking loans from family or friends is not necessarily the best option. Skills development programs can connect young people with local microfinance institutions (MFIs) for loans. On the other hand, many entrepreneurs struggle due to a lack of customers. Fluctuations in demand and prices significantly affect their sales. Organizations can help establish connections with local restaurants and stores and create those downstream links within the supply chain.

Like other countries, the youth of Bangladesh have gone through a difficult time during the Covid pandemic. As we recover from the fallout of the pandemic, developing the skills of young people should be one of the main priorities to strengthen their presence in the labor market. Promoting IGAs and entrepreneurship through skills development training can be a strategy of government and non-government sectors. After all, healthy and skilled youth are the future of a nation and the world.

Md Mofaq Kharul Taufiq is a development activist, currently working as a YCC Specialist for the US Forest Service, International Program.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the US Forest Service, or the US Government.

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