A few months ago, when IYF’s job placement team in Morocco secured a position for the 900th young person, they celebrated with a cake, a small Alice in Wonderland-style gâteau with the number 900 written on the top. Then, two weeks later, they found jobs for another 100 young people. So, what to do—buy another cake?

I can think of harder decisions. And besides, our intrepid Emploi Habilité team, Hicham, Loubna, and Jawad, didn’t achieve those results by resting on their laurels. They did so through a deliberate strategy based on persistence, creativity, and smarts. The result? The initiative is now rounding out its final months at full steam, with over 1,700 young people hired into decent jobs, and counting.

Emploi Habilité is the brainchild of IYF and the Silatech Foundation and was created in response to problems we see in Morocco every day: the needs of young people for quality training on in-demand job skills and key soft competencies; the needs of tourism-sector employers for qualified workers to grow their businesses; and the needs of public vocational training schools to retool and refresh and way they serve the newest generation.

Emploi Habilité gives young people a package of specialized training that makes them stand out as job candidates, and then as employees. For some, that job as a hotel agent or restaurant server might be their first experience in a formal-sector workplace. But having solid skills training (from Ministry of Tourism training institutes) and experiential life skills training in their back pockets makes that transition much easier.

To get youth in the door, our job-placement team focuses on the fundamentals: meticulous coordination and outreach.  The trio wields a sprawling database containing every beneficiary’s resume and profile. They talk tirelessly with employers about the value of hiring our well-trained youth. They maintain a Facebook community to promote recruitment events and job-search tips. They partner with ANAPEC, the Moroccan national employment agency, to offer resume workshops and rehearsal interview days. They travel to other cities to scope out new opportunities in the sector. And their color-coding system for rating prospects is strict (red, green and yellow, traffic-light style). And it works! This ground game puts our young people on new paths, by giving them a boost into one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the country: tourism.    

Of course, not every young Moroccan gets to enjoy this kind of individual support. In a society where one in three people is under 30 and where educational systems often place too little emphasis on practical and work-relevant skills, helping youth make that leap into a first—or better —job can be both daunting and difficult.   

But this is also a country whose people have managed to tread a path toward growth and stability during a tumultuous half decade that has left many of its neighbors in disarray, and a country with a wealth of cultural, natural (and culinary!) resources that most others would envy. And it’s a place where Loubna, Jawad, and Hicham come to work every day. So all things considered, I like our odds.

Colton Hubbard is Program Manager, North Africa and Eurasia.