The world’s 1.2 billion young people (ages 15–24) constitute 18% of the global population. Most of them live in rural areas of developing countries. This is the age group that graduates from high schools and universities ready to enter into the job market. Unfortunately, millions of youths who graduate from schools in Africa and Asia are not equipped with the necessary skills to enter into professional careers or to become self-employed. They also lack information about available opportunities and the experience required by employers.
According to a 2006 report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), young people account for almost half of unemployment globally. The figures are even more alarming in low-income countries. And even if they manage to land a job interview, rural youths, especially girls, lack the confidence to get through it without emotional trauma.
While some employers target fresh graduates, many require job experience. In itself experience is a barrier for young fresh graduates to enter into job market. After several applications and interviews hoping to land on their first jobs, millions of youth who graduated with high hopes coupled with expectations from parents, fall victim to frustration and despair. First, they graduate with the excitement that their academic achievement will automatically earn them dream jobs. Second, they anticipate that their first monthly pay will mark the end of the financial hardship of college years and the beginning of a decent life. Third, they have high hopes of responding to pressure from those who supported through their school years to begin sharing their financial burdens. When these dreams do not translate into reality, they continue to depend on their parents and friends. Many become frustrated and resort to alcohol or drug abuse, which then becomes another source of conflict between parents and youth.
Fortunately, there is good news from the job market. Employers are looking for skilled and confident young people to hire. What is needed is a bridge program that enhances the skills and boosts the confidence of young graduates, especially girls, to become competitive before they attempt to enter the job market. IIRR’s internship program is just that.