Learning to Love Standard Indicators: A USAID Perspective on Measuring Youth Workforce Development
Years ago, as I was entering the world of monitoring and evaluation as a USAID implementing partner, I carelessly told a co-worker how much I disliked standard indicators. He did not believe me. I told him I was serious: they distracted our evaluations, they occasionally nudged programming toward a less-than-relevant outcome, and they destroyed my dreams of answering brilliant research questions and becoming the next Esther Duflo.
Years later, as one of the developers of standard foreign assistance indicators in the USAID Office of Education and despite the irony, I — and many others in the Office of Education — am still serious about the consequences of indicators. That is why, particularly in youth workforce development (YWFD), we’ve revised and added to our standard foreign assistance indicators. Our new and revised indicators re-focus our sector on a range of possible outcomes — beyond new employment alone — that reflect meaningful results of our work with youth. For example,
Have your participants improved their soft skills? Great! Let’s count it!
Have youth increased their earnings? Yes, that too!
Have they transitioned back to school or training? The Office of Education thinks this is really important (you can check out our Policy just to make sure)!
Can they read better than before? Yes! Reading is essential for youth preparing for work!
Now, how do these indicators relate to each other? Well, none of them are mutually exclusive, and they won’t be added together. For example, let’s take a youth who happens to be really really awesome but probably really really tired. This youth has gained new employment, increased his or her earnings from zero to something better, gone back to school to get a primary school-equivalent certificate, and improved his or her soft and reading skills. This youth could be counted toward all of these indicators if these outcomes align with USAID-funded activity goals.
And that’s how you learn to love a standard YWFD indicator. You find the one(s) that are right for your programming and report on those. Our expanded list of standard foreign assistance indicators, we hope, will make it easier to find the right fit. So, do the good work of meeting youth where they are and with what they need, be it employment, better earnings, more schooling or training, or better soft or reading skills. Measure it well as long as it fits, using USAID’s Measuring Employment and Earnings using the Workforce Outcomes Reporting Questionnaire (WORQ) Toolkit and its Measuring Skills for Youth Workforce Development How-To Note to help you. Report findings so that we in the Office of Education can aggregate them, share them back with you, and we can all learn from it together.
Still want more on indicators? Check out the full list of YWFD indicators below.
Oh, did I mention I love indicators?
Percent of individuals with new employment following participation in USG-assisted workforce development programs
Average percent change in earnings following participation in USG-assisted workforce development programs
Percent of individuals who transition to further education or training following participation in USG-assisted programs
Percent of individuals with improved soft skills following participation in USG-assisted workforce development programs
Percent of individuals with improved reading skills following participation in USG-assisted programs