Economic Opportunity

IYF breaks down barriers that keep too many of the world’s young people, including the most marginalized, from realizing their full potential. Our initiatives improve skills alignment and equip young people to get a job, effectively contribute to a workplace, thrive in self-employment, or succeed in an entrepreneurial venture. 

What is economic opportunity?

The 1.2 billion young people in the world today represent a wellspring of energy, enthusiasm, and potential. Unfortunately, not all young people receive the same opportunities to unlock that potential and earn a decent living. Economic opportunity means young people can access the education, training, guidance, and connections required to successfully achieve economic security and independence.

  • An investment in youth builds our shared future.

    In our rapidly changing world of work, no one knows for certain which jobs will become obsolete or emerge. What is clear, though, is the world’s young people are eager to secure livelihoods that will help them create the futures they want.

    When young women and men have economic opportunities, they not only elevate themselves, but also their families, communities, and whole economic systems. Our future is a shared one.

IYF’s approach to economic opportunity is locally driven, market aligned, and youth inclusive.

Whether it’s formal wage employment, informal gig work, entrepreneurship, or some combination of the three, young women and men choose employment paths based on a host of distinct factors. The barriers they face in pursuit of their goals will also be unique.

How We Advance Youth Economic Opportunity

  • Local

    IYF begins by identifying a target population’s greatest challenges. These can include confronting racial and gender biases and stereotypes embedded in education and employment systems; poverty; structural barriers, such as geographic isolation; or market systems that exclude young people. We work with local partners to ensure equitable access to opportunities. Getting there means integrating wrap-around services such as transportation and meal stipends, childcare services, and psycho-social supports.

  • Market-relevant

    To facilitate economic opportunity, IYF connects young people to technical and life skills training. We conduct market analyses and employer interviews to understand which technical skills are relevant. Through our Passport to Success® (PTS) life skills training, young people develop timeless, transferable skills that allow them to recognize and control their emotions, make responsible decisions, and set and achieve positive goals.

  • Support

    Our interventions connect young people to support services that allow them to pursue their goals, whether it’s accessing career counseling, learning how to write a CV, or gaining valuable insights for launching a business. We work with local partners to ensure young participants understand their livelihood options and receive personalized guidance that is grounded in the local reality.

  • Capacity

    Underpinning this work, IYF strengthens the capacities of local organizations with whom we partner, creating stronger enabling environments. We provide them with proven tools, best practices, and curricula to support the delivery of effective, relevant, and youth-friendly services. We also promote equitable, youth-friendly workplaces and youth-informed decision making.

“At first when I came here I was shy. So, PTS has given me the confidence to be able to speak to other people, to tell them my ideas in a respectful and positive manner.”

- Primrose Mfilitwa, Hilton Durban Team Member, South Africa

Economic Opportunity in Action

Zimbabwe:Works Multi-stakeholder Alliance

With a special focus on reaching young women, Zimbabwe:Works prepared the country’s marginalized young people to enter the workforce. Receiving initial funding from USAID and an additional commitment from DFID and the Embassy of Sweden, this initiative brought IYF into partnership with local nonprofits and companies to provide critical job readiness training. We also helped entrepreneurs succeed in self-employment through business coursework and access to microfinance savings and loan programs. 

Learn more about Zimbabwe:Works, which also included capacity strengthening for local partners to succeed and operate sustainably.