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Introducing the Systems Approach

What is the “Systems Approach”?

For years, the practitioners who helped create this website have been chipping away at the monumental challenge of creating jobs for the millions young people coming on to the job market every year. The main thing we have learned is that piecemeal approaches to youth job creation don’t work.  A recent World Bank / ILO / RWI study concludes: Programmes that integrate multiple interventions are more likely to have a positive impact. Or, as one of our young editors put it more simply: “What we need is a pipeline – a structured system of support which puts us in a flow from entry into education all the way to a fulfilling job.”  That, in essence, describes the Systems Approach this website urges governments and donors to deliver at scale in their countries.

The supply-side pipeline

The Systems Approach starts with a push from supply-side actors: schools, colleges, universities, VET institutions, career guidance counsellors, the private sector and NGOs providing training schemes. Cultural traditions, family members, friends and individual young people themselves are also on the supply side, and all contribute to forming attitudes and mindsets. This booklet’s Changing Mindsets section (page 7) is crucial: policymakers must create or adapt the institutions and services that shape young people’s attitudes so that they can thrive in the world of work that lies beyond schools.

The demand side

Policymakers must also generate a pull down the pipeline from the demand side by making it easier – much easier – for youth to register start-up enterprises and find career guidance, apprenticeships and the financial services they need to start small businesses. Policymakers must also do better at skills-matching, ensuring the private sector is fully engaged in what students are learning at school and university so that they get the recruits they need at the end of the pipeline. Also, governments must adopt a multi-ministry approach to ensure that Ministries of Trade, Finance are engaged alongside Ministries of Education and Youth so that, for example, government procurement policies favour purchasing from youth- or female-led start-ups. Finally, policymakers must ensure that any young person starting an enterprise has access to a caring mentor as all our experience shows that effective mentorship makes the difference between successful, lasting start-ups and failure.

This website will introduce parliamentarians, policymakers, practitioners and businesspeople to the challenges of – and solutions to – youth unemployment. Specific examples already being used by a range of countries and organisations will be shown in case studies. For reasons of space, this Primer will be restricted to ‘mainstream’ issues: entrepreneurship, enterprise, gender, apprenticeships, career guidance, access to capital, mentorship and so on.  It does not attempt to cover other important areas such as jobs in the Blue Economy, jobs for the disabled, post-conflict job creation and job creation in fragile states. Any of these could fill another booklet – and might in a future edition.

Its main goal is to inspire you – whomever you are, and whatever authority you wield – to take one step. Whether at the family, community, national or international level, do something to raise the profile of, and investment in, this crucial area.  Your Step could be in any one of the following areas – but as you take it, understand that, for the Systems Approach to work, you need to take each one of these steps at the same time.  So think of your first Step as the start of a journey which will take Youth Job Creation to the heart of government.

ONE: Change Mindsets: Just as aristocratic families in 19th Century England refused to allow anyone involved in ‘trade’ to enter their clubs or salons, so youth in most LEDCs are brought up to resist manual trades: jobs in government, international agencies or the ‘professions’ are what they taught to aspire to. That mindset must change. So too must schools, encouraging young women and men to seek careers as entrepreneurs. After all, that is how 80%-95% of them will earn their livelihoods. Career guidance counsellors must alert them to this reality, and teachers trained to prepare their students to prosper in self-employment. Read More

TWO: Enabling Enterprise:  Time and again, young people tell us they cannot start a business because they cannot access the necessary funds. However, almost everywhere, there are a myriad ways to raise funds: crowdsourcing, supplier credits, MFIs or community saving schemes (VSLAs), franchising, leasing and hire purchase agreements are the most prevalent. This section shows policymakers how they can help. Read More

THREE: Engage with the Private Sector:  Most new jobs will be created by the private sector, and all public sector jobs are paid for by taxes generated by the private sector. Job creation policy must therefore focus on growing the private sector – including, where possible, efforts to move the informal sector into co-operatives. Employers and students must also connect to improve skills-matching and expand apprenticeships / work experience.Read More

FOUR: Direct Government Interventions:  Governments can create jobs via public infrastructure projects, wage subsidies, job and training guarantees, and expanded civilian or public service schemes.Read More

FIVE: Youth-led Initiatives:  Youth job creation is, at heart, a youth challenge. Youth must be inspired, empowered, skilled and enabled to create jobs themselves. Several have and we cite some examples.Read More

SIX:  Green Jobs:  Green jobs are a jobs growth area. In January 2017, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission reported that investing in four SDG target areas could create 380 million jobs by 2030.Read More

SEVEN: Digital & Hi-tech Jobs:  Digital skills such as impact outsourcing, e-lancing and net-preneurship are powerful job creation technologies.Governments and policymakers can do much more to support their spread.Read More

EIGHT: The Metrics Challenge:  If you can’t measure the impact of job creation interventions, you’re just guessing. No senior economist is going to believe our guesses. As a field, we must get better at the metrics. Here’s how.Read More

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