Young people from Eastern Visayas in the Philippines have started to notice the ripple effect of their recent economic empowerment training.
“The skills I learned during the training have opened up opportunities for me,” said 24-year-old Emily. “I now have a job that feeds my family and sends my younger sister to school.”
Emily is a high school graduate who used to be unemployed but now works in one of the leading restaurant chains in Tacloban City.
“When I wasn’t working, I felt insecure and frustrated that I was not in college or working,” she said. “I didn’t have the support of my parents because for them, sending daughters to school would be useless as we would just end up marrying and staying at home.”
Raymond, Ariel, and Mark are three young entrepreneurs who sell fish at one of the markets in Tacloban City. Their business, RAM’s Fresh Fish, has become so successful that they now em-ploy a number of other young people to help them.
“If we were not given the capital to start our business, we might still be dependent on our parents - asking for money to cover our needs, including food for our children,” said 24-year-old Ray-mond.
“When we were given the opportunity to set up a business, everything changed,” he added. “We were empowered and felt trusted by our wives, parents, and even the community. We can now buy what we want and provide for our families.”
Emily, Raymond, Ariel, and Mark are just four of almost 4,000 young people who have found employment opportunities though Plan International’s Youth Economic and Empowerment (YEE) program.
Based on the 2016 Labor Force Survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are more than 1 million Filipino young people aged 15 to 24 years old who are unemployed. Most of them left school early.
Plan, through its YEE program, aims to reduce the high number of jobless youth in the country. The organization works closely with the Filipino government through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to provide employability skills and livelihood training for young people living in difficult situations. This includes those who are out of school, have dis-abilities, are from female- and elderly-headed households, young parents, and those affected by disasters.
Young people looking for work are encouraged to join training courses for job roles that are in demand and market-driven. Those who want to be self-employed can apply for funds to start their own business.
“Before the young people start their new jobs or are provided with start-up business capital, Plan International works with them, teaching them so-called “soft skills” such as analytical thinking and communications skills, financial literacy, digital literacy, family planning, safe migration, and disability inclusion awareness,” said Emilio Paz, Plan International Livelihood Advisor.
However, even after the young people have undertaken training and acquired their national certi-fication, they often still face challenges in finding work.
“In the Philippines, we still have limited awareness and appreciation of the real value of technical skills education. We must change this,” said Cleta Omega, Regional Director of TESDA in East-ern Visayas.
Plan International calls on the government and private sectors to open their doors to young peo-ple and invest in youth economic empowerment. “If young people are given the opportunity, they can play a full and meaningful part in society, be resilient to disaster, and veer away from all forms of inequality and injustice,” Paz adds. “They are a valuable resource for our nation. If more employers play an active role in developing youth, more young people will have better employment opportunities in the future.”