67 million young people looking for a decent job and struggling to build a stable future. Young people without parental care or at risk of losing it are particularly disadvantaged, often lacking the networks and skills provided by families to support their first steps from leaving school to entering the working world.
YouthCan! started in 2017 as a solution to fill this gap. A joint effort between SOS Children’s Villages, private sector companies and civil society partners, YouthCan! builds a network to offer opportunities for young people leaving alternative care. Companies offer training, internships and other support, giving young people invaluable insights into the skills and experience they need to kick-start their careers.
Volunteers – employees from global and local businesses – engage with young people as mentors and advisors. They share their time, expertise and own career stories to coach young people in finding their way in a professional environment and enabling them to pursue the available opportunities. In 2017, almost 900 employees from a total of 117 partners volunteered worldwide to support nearly 5,000 young people in entering or getting for the job market.
Connecting people across borders
Besides face-to-face support , YouthCan! also provides a digital platform called YouthLinks to connect young people to volunteers . Through YouthLinks, young people and mentors have the opportunity to connect anytime, anywhere, breaking geographical barriers and enabling a larger number of people to benefit from the initiative.
In 2017, nine countries piloted YouthCan!, kicking off the initiative with national launches in South Africa, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, Colombia, Rwanda, Jordan and Hungary. Costa Rica and Lithuania also implemented the YouthLinks digital platform to hold online skills development sessions and build a digital network.
Tailored to local context and needs
Each country adapts YouthCan! to the needs of local young people and to the local context, which results in a diverse range of programmes. For example, in Costa Rica, where almost 100,000 young people were unemployed in 2016, SOS Children’s Villages has introduced a programme lasting for three to 12 months. The programme consists of three pillars: life skills training, employability training, and a follow up with young people to help them develop skills to find jobs and training opportunities. For the employability training pillar, working together with corporate partners is crucial. Through YouthCan!, the programme in Costa Rica can be scaled up, ensuring that more young people receive support in their transition to work.
2017 also saw great success in engaging new global partners in this initiative. In addition to the founding partner Deutsche Post DHL Group, YCI joined as support partner, as well as AkzoNobel, Allianz, Johnson&Johnson, thyssenkrupp Elevator and Siegwerk. Moreover, the local teams have been working on securing local partners to join YouthCan! at a national level.
Both participants and volunteers reap the benefits
A young person from Brazil, who participated in an activity with AkzoNobel Brazil, stated: “The teachers were great, and I had the opportunity to learn a lot and make new friends. I went through the experience of having first entered a large company and talking to AkzoNobel employees. I’m grateful that I had the chance to participate in this project.”
Another participant in the YouthCan! initiative, who took part in the GoTeach programme with DPDHL Group shared: “The programme not only helped me gain more experience about work and the skills needed to apply for a job, but also helped me to be self-confident enough to speak in public and not to be afraid when facing questions from an employer.”
However, the impact of the programme is not solely reflected in the development of young people. Volunteers also report that their involvement in the activities provides them with learning and development opportunities. By becoming a role model for young people and sharing their own insights, employees learn more about themselves. Further, being part of this initiative strengthens a sense of community at work.
In 2018 YouthCan! is expanding into 10 new countries: Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Madagascar, Uganda, Cape Verde, Morocco, Russia, Argentina and Uruguay. Simultaneously, the online mentorship initiative is also expanding to nine additional countries.
Ultimately, the goal of SOS Children’s Villages and its YouthCan! partners is to reach even more young people who are preparing to start their careers and live independently. This means further raising awareness of YouthCan! by reaching out to new corporate partners, civil society and other relevant stakeholders such as governments. Our results in 2017 show that each project and each volunteer in each sector can make a true difference as we believe a difficult start in life should never define a young person’s life story.