Steal these ideas: 9 innovative approaches to reducing youth unemployment
By Liz Enbysk, Smart Cities Council
At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent called it a terrible thing when 75 million young people are ready to enter the workforce but can't find jobs and opportunities to create value. His suggestion is a "golden triangle" between business, government and civil society to address the issue – and he's absolutely right. It's up to everyone to help young people get their lives moving in the right direction. If you need inspiration, we've rounded up nine innovative approaches to job creation and youth empowerment from around the world. (And in case you're wondering, Coca-Cola is doing its part with a 5by20 initiative to empower women entrepreneurs around the world.)
1. Mobile recruiting in South Africa
Giraffe is an award-winning startup mobile job recruitment site based in South Africa that CNN called one of the top things to watch in Africa this year. Its founders aim to help reduce unemployment by connecting jobseekers with opportunities and enabling businesses to hire staff 10 times faster and cheaper than any other way. Giraffe gives medium-skilled jobseekers access to opportunities for free — using only their cellphone. The company says it sent more than 50,000 jobseekers for interviews in 2016. It was recently named to the Nominet Trust's NT100 which honors the 100 most inspiring social innovations using digital technology to drive social change around the world.
2. Vocational training programs in Europe
Formalized programs that include on-the-job apprenticeships are common in Germany, where the youth unemployment rate is about half that of the U.S. Students who opt for a vocational track in Germany, according to attn.com, are almost guaranteed a job when they graduate. In Germany the company pays the bulk of the trainee's annual costs with the government providing the rest. The article suggests U.S. companies are less willing to pay for apprenticeships that offer on-the-job training, although we are starting to see movement toward it. Meanwhile, apprenticeships are expected to see big gains across the UK this spring. In April the government will impose a new apprenticeship levy that requires all employers operating in the UK, with a pay bill over £3 million each year, to invest in apprenticeships.
3. Growing jobs in Anchorage
Seeds of Changeis an indoor farm that the nonprofit Anchorage Community Mental Health Services is opening in an 11,000 square foot building in mid-town Anchorage. Michael Sobocinski, the nonprofit's chief operating officer, told Anchorage Dispatch News that once fully operational, the hydroponic farm is expected to produce 50 to 70 tons of produce a year. And tending that produce and learning to market and sell it will be up to 20 youth between ages of 16 and 24 – with priority given to those aging out of foster care, juvenile justice or mental health treatment systems. Too many kids are coming out of tough circumstances and getting lost in young adulthood, Sobocinski told the Dispatch News.
4. Adding public jobs in Seoul
Citing dire consequences of high youth unemployment in Korea where young people without jobs and spending power threaten the country's economy, the Seoul Metropolitan Government recently launched a support program for young job seekers. The Korea Times reports that the government set up 41 locations around the metro area that offer self-empowerment workshops, counseling sessions – even suit rentals. On top of that, the central government has committed to creating 25,000 additional public jobs as well as cash support for new businesses started by young people.
5. Developing Kenya’s gig economy
In Kenya, which Reuters reports has the highest youth jobless rate in East Africa, a digital jobs initiative is linking young people up with online freelance gigs. There are now some 40,000 Kenyans who are doing online work in things like transcription services and software development with a goal of bumping that number to one million. "It is called the gig economy," Joe Mucheru, the minister for information, communication and technology, told Reuters. "Companies are actually putting work online because it is cheaper, it is efficient and it is better for them." Added Sam Gichuru, the co-founder of the Kenyan-owned KuHustle platform, which makes online work available: "When you give young people internet connectivity and you give them gadgets, they get creative and they start finding things."
6. Helping YNEETs design a future in New Zealand
A program started by architects in Northland, New Zealand engages youth not in education, employment or training (YNEETs) in the design of real projects in their community – such as designing a local marae and a campaign around women’s health and safety. The idea is to weave together creativity, community and design to help young people discover their purpose while at the same time making their communities better places to live and more sustainable. A recently announced five-year commitment from Foundation North will enable AKAU to engage 2,800 more young people, per a press release. “This innovative program is enabling young people to find pathways into further education and employment,” Foundation North Chief Executive Jennifer Gill says. “This is of real value given high rates of youth unemployment in the area.”
7. Powering up geeks in Gaza
“We’ve all seen it on the news,” U.S.-based venture investor and tech entrepreneur Christopher M. Schroeder writes on recode. “Gaza is a land of closed borders, three terrible conflicts in seven years and among the highest unemployment rates anywhere.” It also has an inspiring community of young tech entrepreneurs that is attracting attention and mentors from some of the world’s biggest tech companies. A co-working space dubbed Gaza Sky Geeks was created in 2011 by NGO Mercy Corps to convene young entrepreneurs – and it took off. Many tech startups have emerged, but also a commitment to help other young people. They run a network of freelancers, and are also raising funds to launch a coding academy.
8. Serving up employability in Latin America
Last month Arcos Dorados, the world’s largest McDonald’s franchisee, launched the "My First Job" program which aims to create employability and professional training opportunities for young people in Latin America, where the World Bank estimates there are now more than 20 million young people between the ages of 15 and 25 who do not study nor work. "Arcos Dorados is one of the main generators of first employment for young people in the region and we are focusing our efforts on this area, for its potential to have a transformative social impact,” said CEO Sergio Alonso. “For several years we have worked in partnership with local governments and public and private institutions to promote the employment of young people. Now, this new program takes us to the next level – training focused on the development of skills needed in the labor market.” At the beginning of their working life at McDonald's, the company says, young people learn the norms and methodologies of teamwork in a highly demanding operation, acquiring relevant experience and skills that make them well-equipped to face their professional lives.
9. Focusing on STEM middle skills
Last fall the Siemens Foundation announced the expansion of its STEM Middle-Skill Initiative with the addition of two new partners who will continue to advance the development of essential skills needed for young adults in thriving middle-skill jobs requiring science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The Center to Advance CTE and New America will identify strategies to increase high school student participation in apprenticeships and CTE (Career Technical Education) in the U.S. Middle-skill jobs, according to Siemens, typically require strong technical skills and a two-year degree, occupational license, or certification. Such jobs, particularly in high-demand STEM fields, often pay salaries upwards of $50,000 after two years or less of higher education. The Siemens Foundation has invested more than $90 million in the U.S. to advance workforce development and education initiatives in STEM fields to close the opportunity gap for young people.
Liz Enbysk is editor of Compassionate Cities, an initiative of the Smart Cities Council that highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty.