Current economic growth rates in Pakistan are insufficient for the economy to absorb the one million youths seeking entry into the workforce each year. Rising youth unemployment must be addressed to provide a better standard of living for the “youth bulge,” which now comprises more than half of the country’s total population. Southern Punjab, like the rest of Pakistan, also suffers from a mismatch between trained workers and the needs of industry, creating a vicious cycle in which youth are unable to access existing workforce opportunities while industry suffers from a labor force with low productivity.
In 2016, WSP partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to implement the Punjab Youth Workforce Development (PYWD) project. The three-year project aims to train and facilitate employment opportunities for 10,000 youths (35 percent women) between the ages of 16 and 29 in the southern Punjab districts of Multan, Lodhran, Bahawalpur and Muzaffargarh.
The USAID-PYWD project comprises three main components:
- Community engagement: The project engages key leaders, youth and their families in the four target districts to build community support for expanding youth employment opportunities and strengthening outlets for community service and cultural expression.
- Institutional capacity building: The project is strengthening the capacity of 22 local technical or vocational institutions to provide updated, market-driven courses that equip youth with skills that will allow them to take advantage of emerging job opportunities.
- Access to workforce education and training: In partnership with leading training providers, the project provides job placements as well as career counseling services to youth and assists them in starting their own businesses by providing interest-free microfinance loans.
Through such activities, the USAID Punjab Youth Workforce Development project is enhancing the technical and vocational education and training sector, mobilizing target communities and improving the standard of living for youth in southern Punjab.