Youth unemployment in the face of the growing youth population bulge is a problem on a massive scale. Raleigh International works in rural areas of countries where the problem is particularly severe.
Without a doubt, this is one area where business has a critical role to play. We can only be successful through meaningful partnerships, a principal outlined in Goal 17 of the Global Goals. The business sector can support, improve and add value to what NGOs, charities and governments are already doing.
Based on Raleigh’s experience here are four ways I believe business can support the achievement of lasting change:
Raleigh’s programmes are designed to build skills that young people will use for the rest of their lives. From communication and teamwork, to leadership and problem solving, these skills contribute to their employability.
Research conducted on Raleigh’s 2012 cohort of hard-to-reach youth participants showed that before taking part in Raleigh overseas volunteering programme, 100% of them were not in education, employment, or training. Just 9 months after returning home 84% had found education, employment or training opportunities.
An evaluation of youth employability outcomes in Raleigh’s programmes in Tanzania found that 94% of Tanzanian volunteers said that their confidence in their own abilities increased as a result of participating. 89% reported an increased ability to lead or encourage others, and 87% reported an increased ability to work as part of a team.
Raleigh is supported by businesses such as RedSofa London and the Texel Foundation who provide vital funding to build soft skills in young people in this way.
Employers themselves agree – Ben Smith is Director of Sustainable Development at engineering firm AECOM. Ben says: “In my view programmes like Raleigh provide real world experience that is helpful in the workplace. If someone has Raleigh on their CV, I know they’re going to be driven, enthusiastic, motivated and an asset in the office.”
2. Run skills training for young people
Many young people simply do not have soft skills such as planning skills, communication skills, resourcefulness and adaptability, and this can hold them back from securing a better livelihood. Not many entities provide this kind of training in developing countries – even universities. Training is expensive and most young people can’t afford it. Equally, many employers aren’t interested in training young people up before they start working.
Raleigh believe that encouraging rural young people to start their own businesses is a positive way to improve the prospects of this group.
During 2015 the Overseas Development Institute ran a report on Raleigh’s youth entrepreneurship programme. The report, ‘Building Pathways to Youth Entrepreneurship’, highlighted that it is necessary to build both soft and hard skills – confidence and leadership, as well as business modelling, marketing, accounting and pitching.
One of Raleigh’s business partners, BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA deployed employees to Nepal this November to run a skills-based volunteering programme where they trained youth entrepreneurs in essential skills, including the basics of financial planning, numeracy and book-keeping.
3. Facilitate access to information
Many young people in developing countries face low access to information, above all in the rural areas where Raleigh works. One important role business can assist with is provision of information, to enable development. In Tanzania this October, employees from Google volunteering on Raleigh’s livelihood programme introduced the idea of a Community Noticeboard to one community in Mbeya, where community members can now collaboratively post information they find online to make it more accessible to the whole of the community.
Information can have an instant impact, as it did with one female Tanzanian potato entrepreneur exclaiming: “I didn’t realise there was so much information that I could find here. If I knew, I could have saved my potatoes from diseases!”
Technology from tech businesses will play a growing part in this dissemination of information. Our Google volunteers have proved this for 3 years, using basic tools such as YouTube on smartphones to provide vital information for growing businesses.
4. Link young people to real employment opportunities & business networks
It is one thing to build employability, but it is also important to build connections. Raleigh is now actively linking our youth alumni (previous volunteers) to potential employment opportunities.
For example, Aggreko Plc, global leader in the rental power business and partner to Raleigh, have shown interest in interviewing Raleigh alumni from Tanzania and this will be facilitated through the Raleigh Tanzania National Youth Society.
There are undoubtedly many more ways that business can get involved in delivering employability outcomes for young people around the world – from our experience these are just some of them that are already adding value.
In 2017 Raleigh will be focusing even harder on innovative new thinking within the employability space; for example we will be trialling new initiatives like Youth Employment Hubs to enable more interaction between young people and employers.
There is much to be done, and business can play a big part in achieving it all.
 Raleigh International: Youth Partnerships Report, 2012
 ICS, The Impact of ICS on Volunteer Employability, 2015
James Sutton leads Business Development at Raleigh International. Raleigh is an international sustainable development charity that exists to create lasting change, delivered through youth volunteers.