Our Programs

Youth Employment and Business Start-up Program (YouLead!)

The YouLead! program was designed to increase the employability of young men and women in Sri Lanka over a four-year timeframe. Through this project USAID seeks to increase youth employment and sustainable self-employment to support inclusive economic growth and development.
  • Program Snapshot

  • Country: Sri Lanka
  • Award Value: $13.8 million
  • VEGA Lead Member: International Executive Service Corps (IESC)
  • Other VEGA Members: Arizona State University, Global Communities
  • Objective: Our goal is to increase the employability of youth, including self-employment, and ensure that the employment and income disparities between women and men and rural and urban begin to close.
  • People Impacted: 100,000 students; 1,400 teachers
  • Timeline: June 2017 – June 2021
  • Theme: Youth Employment

Our goal is to increase the employability of youth, including self-employment, and ensure that the employment and income disparities between women and men and rural and urban begin to close. We will create more than 40,000 new or better jobs, half of them for women, by assisting youth in high-growth sectors and regions with high unemployment. Almost 100,000 students will gain access to improved career guidance tools. We will improve the quality, relevance, and availability of vocational training by introducing 57 new or improved curricula, developed with the private sector and prioritized in high-growth sectors; making the curricula available to 50,000 students in target regions, and having them delivered by more than 1,400 teachers armed with updated equipment, materials and skills. We will tackle constraints to entrepreneurial growth, including the lack of foundational skills, and work with both financial institutions and young entrepreneurs to help secure $10 million in financing for youth-led start-ups, an estimated $15 million in private sector leverage and $5 million in public sector leverage. We consider YouLead! a success when our public and private sector counterparts assess and analyze market demand on their own and use it to refine their approaches to curricula development, gender inclusion, and geographic reach.

Key activities and anticipated results

Aligned with YouLead!’s three components, our team will create a more skilled and flexible workforce by building the capacity of students (Component 1), teachers and institutions (Component 2), and entrepreneurs (Component 3). For students, we identify in-demand jobs, skills, and workplace attributes. We dramatically improve both the quality and availability of career counseling tools and advisors as well as the quality and quantity of curricula focused on the highest growth sectors. And we make them available to rural youth and accessible to youth of all genders, ethnicities, classes, and creeds. For teachers and institutions, our experienced workforce development specialist will spend the bulk of his time embedded in both private and public training institutes, particularly the Ministry for Skills Development and Vocational Training and the National Youth Corps. We ensure they too take a market-driven approach, rationalize the number and quality of their training courses, and develop master trainers and master counselors. For entrepreneurs, we build a coordinated ecosystem out of the public, private, and civil society organizations working with start-ups. We place emphasis on linking in and building the capacity of financial institutions to maximize the use of financing facilities, both existing and new, such as the $80 million entrepreneurship fund from the Central Bank, or a USAID DCA guarantee.