Youth employment in the water sector


Hi all, 

A couple of weeks ago I had the honour (thanks to VIA Water!) to attend the INCLUDE conference on youth employment in Africa, organised by INCLUDE platform and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was a very interesting event, where young people were given the opportunity to speak and respond to the various policies and programmes that the different stakeholders are introducing in the hope to tackle the challenges. 

You can find a summary by the organisers here:

I would like to share some of the key points that were shared which may be of interest to you: 

Minister Ploumen mentioned in her opening speech:

  • 18 million jobs will need to be created annually until 2035 to absorb all young entrants to the labour market.
  • Youth unemployment crisis closely linked to food security; yet youth not interested in farming – we need to do something to attract these youth to enter the agricultural sector
  • Role of PPPs – tailor education to market demands
  • Use of internet / mobile technology creates more opportunities
  • Role of government: to remove obstacles for young people to enter the labour market or create their own jobs – enabling environment: basis services, infrastructure, access to energy and water
  • Invest in education – look at curricula, training programmes and on-the-job learning
  • Risk if no new jobs: growing disparity, expectations of youth coming out of school, productivity of women potential not used, economic and moral imperative

Louise Fox of USAID highlighted: 

  • More attention should be paid to basic cognitive skills (e.g. quality basic education) 
  • Entrepreneurs only a small share of the labour force – but do they create new jobs for others again (if it goes beyond small business/own account working)
  • Youth employment programmes often do not create jobs; but shift the jobs to other people (e.g. to the less fortunate or those who do not have access to the networks)
  • Focus should be on creating more private firms that can employ more people
  • Youth need: access to land, agricultural inputs, capital, know-how to spot opportunities, connect with wholesalers (network), job specific skills, public investments in infrastructure

Ginette Nzau-Matua of AfDB noted that 61.4 % of youth in Africa lack the level of education expected to make them productive in the job. The challenges she highlighted include the lack of data and lack of coordination (a familiar problem!)
Susana Puerto, ILO, shared key factors of a succesful employment programme: 

  • Intensity and scale are key to success
  • Timing matters: skills take time to develop!
  • Importance of selecting/profiling the right people 

It was also mentioned that infrastructural improvements may indirectly affect/improve job creation, so here's an opportunity for the engineers among us ;-) . 

Other points raised (including by young people themselves): 

  • Education policies should be demand driven and well aligned with employment policies
  • Focus on soft skills
  • Consult young people in the process
  • Consider that young people also have families to take care of ; often have various jobs
  • Agricultural incomes not sufficient so young people opt for more attractive jobs 

Unfortunately few private companies were present to share how they view the matter. I am therefore curious to hear from those in the community here, especially the private companies:

  1. How do you see your role to create jobs for youth specifically? Do you think it is your responsibility as a private company to employ and train young people, or do you think the responsibility lies with the government? 
  2. In your experience, what kind of jobs are becoming available for young people in the water sector specficially? What kind of training/skills should we focus on to meet the demands of the employers in the water sector? 

Hope you find the information useful and look forward to receiving your response to the two questions!

Best wishes, Lisa (MDF)