YouthCan! – March 2 2020

Global partnership for youth employability celebrates successful third year: YouthCan!

With more than one in five young people neither in education, employment or training, tackling the global youth employment crisis is crucial to fostering inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies.

By Paula Jahn

Among the nearly 70 million young people without work, young people leaving care experience even more hardships than their peers not in care across a range of domains including educational attainment, employment, and health.

Equipping young care leavers with the tools they need to transition to independence and find decent work is the main objective of YouthCan! – SOS Children’s Villages’ global partnership for youth employability.

Reaching 5,700 young people with the help of six global partners, more than 200 national partners and 1,700 volunteers across the globe, YouthCan! celebrated a successful third year in 2019.

Starting in 2017 in seven pilot countries, the youth employability programme now works with young people in 31 countries. The three pillars of the programme – mentor, train, practice – are tailored to the local labour market and the individual needs of each young participant.

As the first pillar of YouthCan!, mentorships are a core aspect of the programme. The mentors, who are volunteers from partners corporations, exchange with the young people in person and online to provide guidance and advice on their career choices.

Mentorships have been found to have a profound impact on the trajectory of the lives of vulnerable young people. Indeed, 20-year-old YouthCan! participant Laura from Colombia says that her mentor filled her with confidence. Ariana, a 25-year-old participant from Cape Verde, says the experience greatly improved her self-esteem.

Skills training, the second pillar of YouthCan!, can directly improve a young person’s employment prospects and has been shown to be a strong predictor for success in the labour market. In YouthCan!, it includes hard skills that are directly relevant to job-related tasks, and soft skills such as communicating effectively.

Monalisa, a 22-year-old YouthCan! participant from Indonesia, says the programme taught her how to face the job market professionally.

“The volunteers taught us many things: they encouraged us to build our confidence, to be brave and to face the world head on,” she says. “We also learned valuable skills, like how to prepare a CV and how to interview for a job."

To ensure inclusivity and access for those living in remote areas, skills training and mentoring are offered both in person and through digital learning and online mentoring initiatives.

Job-shadowing, internships and traineeships comprise the third pillar of YouthCan! and support young people in gaining their first work experience and a deeper understanding of the workplace.

This third pillar also provides young people with the opportunity to build new networks, something young care leavers might be especially lacking, explains Miguel, a young YouthCan! participant from Brazil.

“Often, young people get their first workplace exposure through connections and family networks, something that many people simply don’t have,” Miguel says.

“From this project, I learned how important it is to make connections and put your name out there, to show that you are willing to work, grow, and better yourself as a person and a professional,” the 20-year-old adds.

YouthCan! is a multi-stakeholder partnership that benefits from the support of its six global partners: Deutsche Post DHL Group, AkzoNobel, Allianz, Johnson & Johnson, Siegwerk and thyssenkrupp Elevator. Beyond the financial support these partners provide, the time and effort dedicated by their employees across the globe makes YouthCan! possible.

Lynn Rifayi, an employee at Janssen EMEA in Beirut, volunteers as a mentor for young people in Lebanon. She reflects that participating in YouthCan! is equally rewarding for the volunteer.

“To be a mentor makes you a more understanding human being, but it also lets you learn new things and improve your communication and interpersonal skills,” Ms Rifayi says.

Her sentiments are echoed by Nelson Figueroa, an employee of Siegwerk Colombia and YouthCan! volunteer.

“Seeing the young people so interested, excited and grateful for the opportunity to develop plans for their own futures was powerful,” Figueroa says.

After three successful years of YouthCan!, the goal now is to reach young people in 40 countries by the end of 2020.

Participants at a glance:

Six out of ten participants this year were young Africans, with the majority of them stemming from southern and eastern parts of the continent. Two out of 10 participants came from South- and Central America and one in 10 came from Asia and Eastern Europe each. The average participant age is 20 years, and half of all participants are women.