USAID, advocacy group seek more private sector support for out-of-school youth

Andrea Taguines, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 06 2023 09:38 PM

MANILA - More private sector support is needed to help provide out-of-school youth with pathways to employment, an official of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said Wednesday.

Nancy Wallace, who heads the Opportunity 2.0 program of the USAID in the Philippines, said during a summit with private partners that since they started the project in 2020, it has already helped 36,000 out-of-school youth across 15 cities in the country find jobs or start their own businesses. 

Wallace said Gen Z's has specific strength which is their digital savviness and natural grit.

But to reach their goal of helping 180,000 youth by 2025, Wallace said they will need the backing of a lot more companies who are willing to take a chance on them.

“Somebody mentioned it today— seeing is believing. Well maybe, believing is seeing. The more private sector says, I believe in you, the more the youth are going to succeed,” said Wallace.

Philippine Business for Education Executive Director Justine Raagas admitted that until today, there is still a stigma surrounding the hiring out-of-school youth. That’s why they have also partnered with USAID to raise awareness among private employers.

“What we've been doing in many of our projects is really to provide proof of concept. Minsan kasi it only takes one or two companies, for example, to show proof, to show that these young people, when you give them the right training, when you give them the right support and when you teach them foundational skills and you teach them technical skills, kaya naman nila mag-thrive in the workplace,” said Raagas.

One of Opportunity 2.0’s private partners is Sayyid Daham, who is more famously known as Spider Pao because of the Spiderman costume he wears as he peddles halal siopao in the streets of Zamboanga City.

Now that he has grown his food cart business, he makes sure to hire out-of-school youth like himself to help them succeed in life.

“Pag nakita kong may heart, come on, come into my team. I don’t need any background, wala akong pakialam kasi based on my experience. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, masaya palang magtulong sa kapwa. Dati ako yung nag-aapply, ngayon youth champion na daw kasi 20 na yung staff ko,” he said.

The Opportunity 2.0 project works by developing new and quality learning materials and delivering them at scale to students enrolled in the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s courses.

But because it was only intended to last until 2025, Wallace said they are also looking at sustainability for the next few years.

“We’re focusing on how the Department of Education and TESDA, but also the youth development alliances, and PESO, and all of our other partners can sustain the activities, the programs that have been initiated here,” she said.

According to USAID Philippines, the number of out-of-school youth in the country has grown to more than 4 million due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education sector.

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