-  Rural Young People Ready for Work  -

Realizing Potential, Addressing Barriers, Developing Young Leaders among rural Youth and Excluded

With the support of IDRC, an agency of the Government of Canada, we are launching a project in Shan State to enhance employability skills for youth aged 18-25 studying at higher education institutions in Southern Shan State of Myanmar. We will be providing training and mentoring, and facilitating direct linkages with employers which will unlock the potential employment opportunities for these disadvantaged young people in rural areas.

The project also has a research and knowledge creation element. To capture knowledge and lessons, a symposium will be held focused on understanding the nature and scale of the skills-education gap in rural areas, the stakeholders and actors who can address this gap and what should be done to impact a change on the employment opportunities for rural young people, with a particular focus on gender and ethnicity.

Our organization believes that there are great synergies and benefits for students that can be explored, if the linkage, cooperation and coordination between academic institutions and private sector are enhanced effectively. University students who acquire the right set of skills for the labor market will in the future help build the strong and robust economy of the New Myanmar.

Background

Poverty in Myanmar the country is disproportionately concentrated in the rural areas where communities rely on subsistence agriculture and casual employment. A growing number of landless people (15 million) are dependent on seasonal, non-farm work which is inadequate most of the year. Rural employment figures at 57%, with low wages for women, are keeping over 28% of rural people below the poverty line. Simultaneously, under-employment is rising – specifically that of casual labour, which is largely seasonal in the rural sector – and is significantly higher among people without land ownership. Notably, a greater proportion of women are employed as casual labourers, but are paid up to a 1/3 less.

Rural young people in Myanmar are particularly disadvantaged, as they lack the skills and access to educational opportunities that are required to adapt to the needs of the rapidly developing economy. According to Steve Marshall, Myanmar’s liaison officer for the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency, the Myanmar government is “very concerned” about youth unemployment.

Our project recognises that the rural youth often lack work and employment skills, restricting them from promising employment opportunities, meaning that many of the graduates continue to be unemployed or underemployed. We are going to be working to ensure that Myanmar has skilled and capable young people to enter into the workforce. This project will work directly with educational institutions and employers to facilitate improvements in work-readiness opportunities for disadvantaged young people (ages 18-25), especially young women. This initiative will also lead to a better understanding of the employability barriers of rural young people through multi-stakeholder dialogue and learning.

Training

The project will involve the following training activities:

  • Work with higher educational institutions in Southern Shan State and a range of relevant employers with an agricultural business background, human resources and other industries, both local and international, to identify key gaps in the current students’ “work readiness”.
  • Develop and deliver a program of interactive seminars on employability and workplace skills for rural disadvantaged rural youth to provide students with the requisite skills suited to a modern economy and tools to improve their “work readiness”. These day-long seminars will be held at the relevant higher learning institutions and will engage at least 1,000 students in total in these development opportunities. We aim to ensure that at least 40% of participants are young women.
  • Involve employers in the provision of the training to ensure the relevance of the training to the workplace and give the participants exposure to actual employment opportunities. Seminars will also build students’ aspirations and confidence through carefully selected role models from the private sector.
  • The seminars may cover contents to enhance financial literacy, to improve IT skills, to meet employer expectations, and to better understand business development,
  • Youth leadership will be fostered, with 10 selected young people in each of the participating institutions invited to join a leadership development program and who will support the next crop of young people.

Knowledge sharing

The project will involve the following knowledge sharing activities:

  • Create a baseline report on the gaps in “youth employability readiness” that will be identified through the initial practical stage of the project.
  • Hold a symposium dedicated to interactive knowledge sharing. Participants will include a range of private sector partners involved in this initiative together with educational institutions, Government stakeholders, representatives from the key ethnic minorities cultural groups and NGOs involved in the employability agenda.
  • Produce and disseminate a sector report that will capture the key lessons of the activities and the symposium to inform future policy dialogue.
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