Skilling Youth for Lifetime Success

Worldwide, the demand for economic resiliency and sustainability has never before been greater than it is now.  The confluence of vastly accelerating markets for new goods, services and technologies and the unprecedented urgency to address climate shifts and global socio-economic inequities call for a workforce that is skilled and agile.   For more than a decade, Save the Children’s youth employability programs have been evolving in tandem with local labor demands  to equip adolescents and youth who are most impacted by inequality with the practical skills and networks they need to find decent jobs or build their own business and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.  

Unfortunately, the pandemic exacerbated the market challenges generally faced by young people.   Many simply dropped out of the labor force, or failed to enter it altogether, due to the enormous difficulty of searching for a securing a job at a time when lockdowns and confinement measures were being imposed and when employers were suffering revenue losses from economic downturns. 

Save the Children is investing significantly on ensuring today’s youth are prepared to enter the workforce and have the knowledge and pathways to do so.   Save the Children agile and youth-centric livelihood ecosystems are tailored to drive employment opportunities that meet the specific immediate and anticipated needs of local labor markets.  The result: 1 million youth in 47 countries have benefitted from Save the Children’s youth livelihoods programs. Whether in rural or urban settings, Save the Children collaborates with vocational schools, government agencies, and businesses to assess opportunities to build a comprehensive framework of employability, entrepreneurship and vocational training, on-the-job training, career counselling and mentoring, business start-up services, and job linkages for youth aged 15-24.  

Facts and Figures from the International Labor Organization (ILO)

  • 267 million young people were not in employment, education or training in 2021
  • The unemployment rate for youth aged 15 – 24 is 3X more than adults
  • In low-income countries, women’s participation rate in the labor force is 49%, compared to 75% for men
  • 80-90% of people with disabilities are unemployed


At a Glance:

Supporting young people’s transition from childhood into adulthood, Save the Children tailors each program to meet the specific market needs with the skills for young people’s success.

Local Market Assessment: To ensure a sustainable solution, it is essential to understand the market gaps and demands in order to funnel youth to flourishing industries. Insights are gleaned from public and private employment agencies, training schools, business/industry associations, civil society organizations, and local government agencies, to understand specific employment challenges to attract and retain talent. Through these consultations, a landscape assessment of suitable employment sectors for youth emerge based on the scale, growth, and relevance of opportunities; the quality, earning and career growth potential; and whether there are opportunities for microenterprises and youth-owned businesses. Equally important is understanding the risk factors and barriers to entry, and whether those outweigh the benefits to youth.

Youth-Drive Design: Youth voices are critical to the process to ensure the program is responsive to their needs, interests and motivations. Their ownership ensures they are comfortable in the program, see value and remain committed for the duration. In addition, young people participate in an employability assessment which offers them a unique view of their current skills and provides an opportunity for youth to thinking critically about what skills they need to invest in. This model contributes to their own positive self-concept by having their perspectives heard, recognized and appreciated as well as creates deep engagement in the program.

Transferable Life Skills: At the core of Save the Children’s youth livelihoods programming is a set of five core competencies collectively referred to as “Transferable Life Skills”. Transferable life skills are a set of skills, competencies, behaviors, attitudes and personal qualities that enable people to effectively navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals.

Transferable life skills are becoming more valued by employers. The number of jobs that require predominantly routine manual skills has decreased substantially since the 1980s, while the number of jobs using non-routine analytical skills has grown. At the same time, because most educational systems have traditionally focused on compliance rather than independent thinking, the resulting soft skills gap can be limiting in terms of immediate employability and career development opportunities.

Save the Children has set its Transferable Life Skills curriculum at the cornerstone of its youth employability work, recognizing that regardless of age, experience, job level or industry, mastering these skills can have a profound impact on the lives of youth and facilitate their path to economic household security.

In addition to the core curriculum, Save the Children offers or connects young people to additional training needed as identified in the Local Market Assessments, such as digital skill or agricultural best practices. Relevant to the rapidly shifting global market dynamics, in nearly all settings, young people are being prepared for work in a green economy by recognizing they need to be taught green skills which are applicable today, as well as embrace a growth mindset to continue to adapt.

Green skills are the knowledge and abilities that young people need to get green jobs, and make sustainable consumption and lifestyle choices.

Green jobs are decent and inclusive paid work that aims to preserve or restore the environment, reduce harmful environmental damage, or help adapt to climate change.

[1] PWC CEO Summit (2017). Managing Man and Machine.  20th CEO Survey.

Youths Livelihoods At a Glance graphic

Building an Employability Skills Ecosystem

In order to achieve sustainable change for young people, the entire ecosystem around youth must be engaged – including their parents, teachers, schools, future employers, and the policies and practices that govern their society.

For Youth:

Expand  fundamentals for workforce success: Building on the core Transferable Life Skills components of  1) positive self-concept, 2) self-control, 3) social skills, 4) communication skills, 5) higher order thinking skills and 6) job searching skills, a universal  overlay of developing growth mindsets and green skills is being incorporated into the current framework. 

Skill for a digital future: Youth everywhere need the tech know-how for successful entry and participation in the digital economy.  Digital literacy and digital citizenship courses  are contextually relevant for each market.  

Design for those who face the most inequality: Our gender responsible labor market assessment seeks to understanding the intersectional needs and challenges that youth with disabilities, LGBTQ+ youth, migrants, and refugees, among others face to enter and remain in the workforce. Designing with their unique challenges in mind are critical to closing the employment gap.

Mentorship: Employers across all industries, especially green industries, act as trainers, mentors and career coaches for young people. Their insight and expertise supports the course trainings and job linkage activities by helping youth through jobs fairs, career talks, company visits, internships, and sharing information about vacancies.

Develop youth as change leaders: The program enables youth to build their own agency as leaders and to participate in civic engagement on issues impacting their communities and their professional ambitions. Youth participate in innovation labs that foster new solutions, and provide training to make their voices heard, access resources and connect to networks and organizations to make their efforts more impactful.

For Teachers:

Implement transformative equity and inclusive approaches: Save the Children supports economic empowerment as a pathway to equity for youth experiencing discrimination. The program replicates successful approaches for youth with disabilities, addresses economic integration of migrants and refugees, and continues to drive transformative change for traditionally disadvantaged groups.

Increase teacher effectiveness: Teachers and trainers are gatekeepers in a young person’s journey to economic empowerment. Save the Children works with instructors and implementing partners to  increase their capacity to prepare  youth for the future of work, as well as improving their understanding of Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) barriers to employment and harm that their own biases can do.

For the Community:

Engage parents and communities: Save the Children values engagement from families and other gatekeepers to address unequal gender and social norms, roles, and responsibilities.  The program increases awareness and change attitudes towards GESI barriers to education and workforce participation, and encourage families and communities to support youths’ participation in non-traditional careers and the green economy.

For the Workplace:

Drive equity and inclusion in the workplace: Save the Children works with companies to evaluate their own policies and practices, and support them to address discriminatory attitudes, policies, and practices that limit the participation and advancement of young women and youth most impacted by inequality. Employer trainings address key gender and social barriers including sexual harassment in the workplace, discriminatory hiring and promotion practices, gender segregation in the workforce and also offer solutions such as inclusive recruitment and retention practices and accommodations for employees with disabilities.

Enabling Environment graphic

For Corporate Partners:

We invite partners to help scale this important work. Save the Children is seeking $50 million to reach over 1.1M additional youth across multiple countries by 2023.

Potential locations include all countries in Asia where we have a presence (including China and India), Italy, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala,  Honduras and Peru.   In addition to financial support, we welcome corporate engagement to participate in local market assessments, provide training and mentor youth, hold job fairs in the community and foster networking opportunities.

About Save the Children

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In the United States and around the world, we do whatever it takes – every day and in times of crisis – so children can fulfill their rights to a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Our experts go to the hardest-to-reach places where it is toughest to be a child. We ensure children’s unique voices are heard and their needs are met. Together with children, families and communities, as well as supporters the world over, we achieve lasting results for millions of children. With over 100 years forming lives and the future we share.


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