While so much about our world keeps changing—especially in the way businesses expand and contract, technology evolves, and careers are built or destroyed—certain industries will continue to power our markets and daily lives. The infrastructure and natural resource sectors, which include power, transportation, water, oil and gas, and mining, fall in this category. From providing energy for our homes to the batteries for our smartphones, they will not disappear in the future of work. However, they will continue to need a skilled workforce and successful and meaningful engagement with communities where they operate and where youth populations only are growing.

In May, IYF and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, published Creating Value through Youth Engagement, which aims to offer these industries a practical resource for better understanding youth, how to work with them, and the value of doing so. Throughout IYF’s history we have partnered with global companies to create tailored initiatives that address industry needs while creating promising pathways for young people. Here are four ways IYF has worked with infrastructure and natural resource companies around the world to bolster youth skills and employability, open doors to new opportunities for young people, and enrich local communities:

  1. Advancement of STEM education and technical training: Market-aligned training has been a key component of IYF employability initiatives, including those in partnership with Anglo American in Peru, Caterpillar Foundation in 14 countries, and Chevron in Kazakhstan. The latter, called Zangar, gives young men and women opportunities for hands-on learning in areas such as programming, robotics, and 3-D printing. For example, one young woman built a prototype to beam energy from the moon to the earth. Through festivals and other community events, the initiative has expanded awareness of opportunities in STEM and broadened youth, children's, and parents' appreciation of this education as both fun and potentially rewarding for first jobs and marketable careers.
  2. Development of critical life skills: Time and again, IYF's experience has proven the value of life skills for businesses and youth employment. Skills such as time management, teamwork, and problem-solving complement "hard" skills training and serve young people in any industry, in self-employment, and in daily life. In Mozambique, IYF's partnership with Mozal through the Escholas and Dzima initiatives, reaches in school and out of school youth, respectively, with IYF's Passport to Sucess® life skills curriculum, employability training, and career guidance. “PTS teaches us how to live, to enter the world of employability, how to attend a job interview, and how to write a curriculum vitae. We become different not only at school, but at home too,” says Helena, an Escolhas participant. “PTS is transformation.” Elsewhere, employers see the difference. A site manager in Kenya demonstrates why life skills matter on construction sites, praising young people trained in PTS for their punctuality, work ethic, and positive, can-do attitudes.
  3. Exposing youth to promising career opportunities: The rapid rate of change characterizing the fourth industrial revolution can make it even harder for students, parents, guidance counselors, and school leaders to know what careers are promising and which skills they will require. As in the case of LEAPS, in rural Texas and Louisiana, a remote location can exacerbate challenges around access to information, mentors, and learning opportunities. That initiative, in partnership with BHP, is incorporating the perspectives of local young people, schools, and nonprofits to examine ways to prepare youth with the skills needed to succeed in school, work, and life. For example, LEAPS has begun organizing public sessions aimed at bringing together community leaders who can potentially offer youth job shadowing and career mentoring. Thousands of miles away, a young man in Kazakhstan says that participating in an IYF initiative, in partnership with Chevron, changed his educational direction—to robotics and mechatronics—and encouraged him to push himself. "I decided to choose this major thanks to Zangar,” says 18-year-old Alibek. “Otherwise I would have chosen something boring and within my comfort zone.”
  4. Strengthening young people's community engagement and local organization's capacity: As the world's population of young people grows, their wellbeing strongly impacts whether communities can flourish and how companies can succeed. IYF's ultimate goal is for young people to realize their potential as engaged community members valued for their insights and contributions. It can mean they are enrolled in school, earning money and paying taxes, volunteering, or leading the charge on pressing issues such as those outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals. In the case of Zangar, one of the indirect impacts of life skills training has been a jump in community service projects and youth volunteerism. Another key piece in IYF's experience has been to strengthen local partners' capacity to operate effectively and efficiently. In this way, their good work can continue for many years to come. This approach benefits young people and contributes to the community stability that we and our partners value.

Today, more young men and women than ever before are working to make their way in the world. They seek but too often struggle to secure opportunities to learn, grow, earn a living, and contribute. The infrastructure and natural resource industries—and the whole private sector—play a key role in addressing youth unemployment and underemployment. This youth engagement is critical to their businesses and, for the benefits it brings, to our societies.