8 Ways to Ease Youth Unemployment and Underemployment

Millions of school youth are currently unemployed or underemployed. This number increases per year for various reasons.

Out of School Youth Coming Back to School in Cambodia.

Some cannot follow an academic curriculum. Others do not have an interest in school work.

For many, families do not have the money to support them in schools, and they need to contribute to family revenue by helping with rice growing and animal care.

Perhaps, some find marginal jobs in the city in the hope of earning enough money to attend private training institutions to acquire language and computer skills for improved employment. But very few can do this.

In most countries, these school leavers find it difficult both socially and academically to re-enter. 

Typically, general education concentrates on those who can stay in school. 

Those who have completed their formal primary education and are excluded from any further recognized learning regardless of desire or intellect certainly have lost any chance of higher education within the public education system.

Skills Bridging Students in Cambodia.

TVET public system, meanwhile, is failing to attract students to its certificate and diploma programs. Qualified applicants for higher education do not choose technology first but try for places in academic universities.

​Part of this is the tradition of academic learning that predominates in many countries, especially in Asia.

Changing public attitude is a very long term process even if, in many countries, this extended process has already begun. So, if TVET is to play a role, it can serve this increasing unemployed and underemployed youth.

For many of these school leavers, mastering the skills and knowledge required for entry into higher education is possible if they can learn part-time and work with their families. 

Some of these young people may be among the most gifted learners in the country, and if given an opportunity, they could become exceptional technicians and engineers.

Youth Employment.

In many countries now, the population is so skewed towards the young that youth employment is now a significant concern. Recent figures from ILO placed youth unemployment numbers at 73.4 million, a 3.5 million increase from 2007. ILO also emphasized that over 53% of young workers are in vulnerable employment.

How do we deal with this problem?

1. Training in the workplace

Employers used to train entry-level employees, allowing them to gain experience and climb the career ladder. Today, employers favour outside hires with ready-to-go experience. This change has hurt young job-seekers. It is best to reward employers who invest in on-the-job training with tax credits. 

2. Youth employment services

Link skills training with an employer and industry needs. Involve business at the local level in the design of employment and training programs.

Businesses would commit to hiring graduates of training programs, and they would track outcomes to create a feedback loop to improve the program design. Strengthen the National Employment Agency with a youth services unit to do research and provide career counselling.

Developing Entrepreneurship.

3. Developing entrepreneurship

Young entrepreneurs need coaching and networks to build job-creating businesses. Business leaders need to foster a culture of mentorship.

​Develop an Entrepreneurship Incubator in each college working with local successful business people and SMEs. Business mentoring is so crucial that ILO created, Know about Business, a training methodology for trainers and teachers to help young people become more entrepreneurial.

4. Apprenticeships

Current apprenticeship systems need fixing. There are still barriers to groups such as women. Though the number of young people entering apprenticeships has increased, too many never complete their training.

Not enough employers view hiring an apprentice as an attractive investment. National incentives grants for apprentices go unclaimed.

To increase the number of apprenticeships, educators need to sell students on career and skills education more than they do.

Some experts believe teachers don’t do this because working in the trades is outside their experience. Offer teachers and guidance counsellors short co-op placements in the trades so that they appreciate their value relative to college and university.


5. Career Education

Experience in the workplace is critical for students to make good choices about their careers. It also teaches the “soft skills” employers require.

Make co-op education a mandatory credit in high school, to be phased in over a few years. The government needs a program to help educators and employers develop experiential and workplace learning. 

There is no standard or certification for high school guidance counsellors working on career development with students. Few high school teachers know anything about private sector work or the needs of employers. To ensure quality, require some high school teachers to train and certify as career-development professionals.

Teenagers turn first to their parents for career advice. Parents need better information and more support from schools to help their offspring make the right decisions. Ministers of education should set targets for schools to deliver career education to parents. 

Career studies courses help teenagers consider their working future. Make career studies mandatory. Ensure well-trained teachers teach the classes.

Read more on this: Why Career Coaching in TVET Insitutions
Read this link on why a Career Coach is helpful: ​7 Key Benefits of Finding a Career Coach

6. Colleges and universities to offer co-op education

Co-ops lead to better outcomes in the labour market because they give students work experience and help them develop their networks. The government can create financial incentives for colleges and universities that offer co-op education as part of the course requirements. 

Countries that align colleges and vocational education with the labour market’s needs have lower youth unemployment rates. Ministries of education do track college graduates’ success in the labour market. Strengthen this process now.

Enforce a stricter correspondence between the level of admissions and the labour market’s demand for graduates. If that means limiting entries, so be it. University programs that are pathways to professions such as education and law must also move in this direction.

Evidence suggests that career-counselling after high school helps young people hone their job search skills and find work more quickly. Make consultations with a career professional who can coach you. ​

Graduates need to understand the transition from school to work and must learn to manage it:
10 Winning Attitudes for a Successful Career Kick-Start

7. Skills Bridging Program

In Cambodia, the Directorate of Technical and Vocational Education and Training has started skills bridging program where school leavers (out of school for at least two years) go through a curriculum of Math, Science and Language to meet the requirements for entry into the TVET certificate programs.

The Asian Development Bank, through its Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, assisted this program.

​Over three years, about 700 graduated and of these, 63% enrolled in certificate programs while the others found better employment. Because the Provincial Training Centers in Cambodia go to the rural areas, this program serves mostly the rural youth population.

8. National TVET system that promotes youth employment.

There is a need to redirect the TVET system to serve industry needs better, so graduates from the system can find better employment. The system must also promote programs in rural areas to help the youth get into the career ladder system to avail themselves of better employment opportunities.

Discover more articles about national TVET systems here:

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