For young adults in EDC’s international workforce training programs, the results rarely go unnoticed—the proof is in the paychecks.
EDC delivers hands-on job development in many countries, including Haiti, the Philippines, Somalia, and Kenya. A group of women are among the first to tackle traditional fishing techniques in one Muslim country; young people become community leaders in a region under military occupation; and in one nation, where youth unemployment tops 40 percent, young people discover a career path of their own.
A decade ago, Agosto Borges dropped out of school and began working full-time for his father, a fisherman. He was in primary school.
This isn’t uncommon in Timor-Leste, the poorest country in Asia.
Then a year ago, Borges, now 24, became one of hundreds of 16-to-30 year olds chosen to join EDC’s Preparing Youth for Work project.
Now his father is helping him.
Borges is owner of a fish and livestock cart in the market in the city of Baucau. The father-son team increased their combined annual income to U.S.$3,600 (the average in Timor-Leste is U.S.$2,400).
The eight-month program gives school dropouts like Borges basic life skills and career advice. Then, EDC helps them land an internship, a fellowship, or a job. Some learn electrical, carpentry, and masonry skills. The choice is theirs.
“The program provides the youth participants with the skills and confidence to pursue opportunities that otherwise seem out of reach,” says EDC’s Tim Haskell.
On the shore of the Bay of Bengal, in a town called Barisal, Muslim women use large nets to scoop shrimp out of the water. Through an EDC project in Bangladesh called the Youth Employment Pilot, they are learning their country’s time-honored tradition of freshwater prawn farming.
Designed to add value to the shrinking industry, the project set out to provide technical training and education to help find employment for young men, ages 18 to 25, from poor economic backgrounds in the sixth most densely populated country in the world.
However, before long, men were enrolling their daughters and wives. Now, a year later, half of the participants are women.
“We were hoping to enlist 50 percent women, but we weren’t sure how it would play out,” says EDC’s Nalini Chugani. “We’ve broken the stereotype and shown that women can work in these male-dominated environments, such as the prawn farming industry.”
One hope for the project is that youth, forced to migrate from Barisal to larger cities in Bangladesh for work, will stay on the prawn farms when the project concludes in 2010. The project is also optimistic that a European Union ban on certain prawn from Bangladesh will be lifted before the farming season resumes in March.
A teenager adjusts a blue wristband that will eliminate static charges when she touches a computer—then she begins to disconnect the motherboard.
Like others in the Ruwwad Palestinian Empowerment Program, this young girl’s technology skills surpass those of many adults.
“The idea is to leverage a digital network that unites young people from different countries,” says EDC’s Hisham Jabi, director of Ruwwad, which is Arabic for “pioneers.” “We are trying to help them form their own opinions, collaborate with people from all over the world, and eventually pursue leadership positions.”
The ultimate goal is to encourage youth to become future leaders through community service projects, activities, and sports, and to provide job and computer training in high-tech classrooms in professional resource centers.
Ruwwad couples with the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership, which was launched by the U.S. government and business leaders to facilitate progress toward a two-state solution. The program also works with private funders, including Cisco Systems’ Mediterranean Youth Technology Club, a supplementary afterschool program for 14 to 18 year olds that promotes information sharing between the West Bank and seven other countries, including Israel.
Preparing Youth for Work, the Youth Employment Project, and Ruwwad are just three of EDC’s programs that help youth join the workforce. All three are supported by Education Quality and Improvement Program (EQUIP3), a USAID-funded program.
Originally published on October 27, 2009