For two hours, ten youth participating in Youth:Work Jordan (YWJ), a five-year initiative working to improve livelihood and development opportunities for vulnerable youth, had the chance to share their accomplishments, challenges, and aspirations with Michael Posner, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, along with representatives of the US Embassy and USAID in Jordan.

A joint initiative of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD), and the International Youth Foundation (IYF), YWJ pursues a holistic youth development approach to improve social services for youth, while helping them to find jobs, start their own businesses, and become more engaged members of their communities.

The roundtable discussion took place at the Khawla Bent Alazwar Charitable Society, a community-based organization and YWJ implementing partner in Zarqa. The youth, all of whom had dropped out of the formal education system, expressed their gratitude for the life skills training they received, saying that it allowed them to appreciate their strengths and set goals for their future. In addition to 12 days of life skills instruction, the youth received training in business English, IT, and technical skills (e.g., computer maintenance and industrial sewing) based on their interests and market demand. Before the program, the youth shared that their time was largely spent on the streets, watching TV, or just hanging out.

Asked by Mr. Posner what they felt are the greatest challenges facing young people in the region, the youth responded clearly: poverty, low wages, unemployment, and lack of youth services. The youth overwhelmingly noted the program’s positive impact and the need for more young people to benefit.

Also over the past week, Youth:Work Jordan expanded its reach to Irbid, an area in the northwest of the country, where 400 youth, ages 15 to 24, will benefit from trainings focused on increasing their employability, while engaging them in efforts to improve their communities. Technical trainings to be offered include HVAC repair, hospitality, sewing, household maintenance, construction, tourism, and retail sales. Youth will also benefit from life skills training and volunteer activities focused on creating youth-friendly spaces in their neighborhoods.

View photos of the youth roundtable discussion in Zarqa. Learn more about Youth:Work Jordan at: www.youthworkjordan.org.