From Unemployed Youth to Valued Worker: Learning From a Global Workforce Development Program
A plethora of providers now run programs to bridge the gap between young jobseekers and paychecks. Initiatives range from small, local efforts to bold, worldwide initiatives. USAID has inspired and funded many of them.
Generation: A USAID Global Development Alliance Initiative
One of the more ambitious youth workforce development initiatives is Generation, which aims “to enable a career-launching job for every young person, anywhere in the world.”
An independent NGO founded by McKinsey & Company in 2015, Generation grew from extensive research about what works for youth and employers too. This research asked:
- What kinds of skill-building and job-readiness preparation foster success for youth, whether well educated and not?
- What kinds of programs, outreach and management approaches work for employers to attract and retain good employees?
Under a five-year Global Development Alliance with USAID, Generation partners with dozens of public and private training providers and nonprofits, as well as 2,300 employers. It unites youth with training and employers in over 100 cities in nine countries (soon to be 11 countries). USAID has supported Generation in Kenya, Mexico and India. Dr. Mona Mourshed, Generation’s President and CEO, and Ali Jaffer, Global Head of Operations, recently shared milestones and challenges, what makes Generation unique, and what the team has learned about finding the right employers for successful programs.
Achieving High Placement Rates and Quality
Generation’s programs are based on a comprehensive and rapidly scalable methodology that includes technical, behavioral and “mindset” skills, as well as on-the-job mentoring and support.
Trainees can prepare for one of 24 professions across four sectors: customer service and sales, digital and IT, healthcare, and more traditional skilled trades like construction or catering. And because Generation works with employers to tailor training to specific job requirements, trainees experience high placement rates.
Generation also has a strong quality assurance system that feeds data back into improving instruction and student performance. The 4-12 week “boot camp” sessions are interactive and include practice, role plays, simulations and case studies. The package of services offered varies by country. It can include mentoring, access to childcare, stipends and other social support services.
Aside from these initial markers of success, what sets Generation apart most from other workforce programs is its sustainability target. Generation aims to become 100% employer-financed, “graduating” from USAID and other donors altogether by 2020.
So how does Generation plan to achieve this target?
Making the Case for Employer Co-Investment
Making the case for employer financing starts with showing return on investment (ROI) over time. Generation redefines ROI for training programs as looking beyond cost per trainee to consider trainee performance relative to peers; how much the company saves from lower turnover, absenteeism, and tardiness; savings in training and hiring costs; and how quickly workers get promoted.
Generation also gauges the ROI to participants, calculating the value of job placement, increase in income, career trajectory and reported well-being.
Many employers are willing to cover some of the training cost, but there have been challenges in finding employers willing to pay more than a certain percentage. For them to go for 100%, says Mourshed, “The company has to be desperate, facing significant difficulties in finding people to fill their open roles, and having already tried to recruit by partnering with NGOs or other organizations...or company leadership has to be passionate about contributing to the community.” Generation is exploring different strategies for adjusting their model to tailor training to employers’ needs in order to incentivize them to co-invest.
What makes a good workforce preparation program?
Motivating employers in developing countries, like Kenya, to not only track ROI data but to also invest in training for their workforce is quite groundbreaking. These are very new priorities for businesses in these countries, where normally they have just been focused on filling vacancies
USAID continues to be committed to supporting workforce development programming that works toward sustainability and engages the private sector in innovative ways. The Generation GDA highlights many of the opportunities and lessons learned for how to do this effectively in challenging contexts like emerging economies.