Education to Employment: Designing a System that Works

About the study

This study examined various education-to-employment initiatives around the world to promote youth employment by using case studies and survey data of youth, education providers, and employers. The study addresses youth unemployment and skills shortages by focusing on a wide range of skill development programs and training offered by education providers and employers.



What can be learned from this study?

• Establishing effective and positive partnerships between education providers and employers is understood to facilitate better employment opportunities for youth by bridging the knowledge gap between education providers and employers. However, one-third of employers indicated that they never had contact with education providers and many did not consider it to be effective. In addition, while 72% of education providers believed that new graduates were prepared to work, nearly 40% of employers identified lack of skills for not being able to fill entry-level positions. The study finds that employment programs that have both education providers and employers actively engaged in the development and implementation of skills training programs achieve the greatest effectiveness in creating better employment opportunities for youth.

• On-the-job training and hands-on learning are more effective methods of instruction than traditional lecture or online and distance learning approaches. Vocational institutions significantly spent more time on hands-on learning than post-secondary institutions, but due to the social stigma attached to vocational training, fewer young people chose a vocational education path.

• Key lessons can be learned from successful initiatives and promising practices that have contributed to improving labour market outcomes for young people in different countries.

  • Youth need better access to information on employment as well as occupation, wages, and training opportunities in order to help them make informed career decisions. For example, the National Career Service in the United Kingdom and the Colombia Labor Observatory launched websites that provided labour market information to young people, including industry trends, salaries, training requirements, and training programs. To engage youth in their career planning process, Japan and Norway incorporated career guidance and counseling courses as part of the school curriculum making it mandatory for students, while India had workers going door-to-door to speak to youth and their parents about available training and employment opportunities.
  • Reducing the stigma attached to vocational training can help steer those youth who are keen on hands-ons learning. South Korea’s government-funded Meister Schools are a prime example of the government’s effort to change the negative perceptions of vocational schools in the country. Since its transformation from vocational schools to Meister Schools in 2010, Meister Schools recorded better student outcomes with 55% of graduates pursuing post-secondary education and 33% finding employment compared to 73% and 19% respectively under the previous vocational school system.
  • Youth employment program should have a strong support mechanism to ensure quality of training offered to young people and further improve student outcomes. A successful youth employment program in the US, Year Up,  has a support network of mentors, social-service professionals, and community-based partners that helped students successfully find employment upon completing the program. Miami Dade College produced twice the national average of graduates by undertaking a large-scale effort where academic advisers monitored students’ progress and intervened when appropriate.
  • Education and training providers need to actively collaborate with industry in order to design an effective curriculum for young people. Components of the program should be developed to reflect employer needs and competencies and build skill sets that are required to succeed in the industry. For instance, the Automotive Manufacturing Training and Education Collective (AMTEC) in the US, and Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) framework both worked with industry partners to create a set of competencies that clearly outlined the job tasks for each occupation.
  • Youth employment programs should offer internships and apprenticeships so that young people can apply what they learn in the classroom and acquire hands-on experience. The study notes that some education providers used physical and virtual simulations to train youth in various skills that can range from marine navigation to business-process optimization, while some employers delivered their own training programs to participants to address their needs.
  • Both education providers and employers can be involved in the career development process of youth from when they start the program until they get hired. China Vocational Training Holdings is one example of an education provider that trains youth to work in the automotive industry and guarantees jobs for its graduates. Some employers have taken the initiative to prehire youth, sponsor their training, and hire them afterwards in order to better address skills shortage in the workplace. This was the case for Go for Gold in South Africa, where promising high school students were identified and then tutored and trained through high school and college with a job guaranteed after graduation. Mentorship was a key component that made the Go for Gold program successful.

• More education providers and employers should be informed about their role in youth employment. The study notes that more data should be collected on youth after graduation, such as the Graduate Employment Survey in Singapore, and the quality of data should be improved to better equip education providers and employers to engage youth.

• A sector-wide collaboration is imperative to establishing effective partnerships between education providers and employers to deliver a cost-effective curriculum for all partners. By forming the Apprenticeship 2000 Coalition, eight companies in North Carolina were involved in creating a common curriculum and delivery of training in order to address skill needs in the industry. In order to compensate the partners for the significant investment they had to make, the coalition had all members sign a no-poaching agreement and set up a matching system to allocate trainees to companies.

• There is a need for a “system integrator” to connect education providers and employers by coordinating and integrating activities, initiating action, and monitoring the outcomes. The study gives several examples of integrators ranging from the Federal Employment Agency in Germany to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency.

• The study identifies three major barriers to creating and expanding education-to-employment programs to serve young people in different parts of the world:

  •  Education providers face resource constraints making expansion of their operation difficult.
  •  Education providers face challenges in securing internships, workplace-based training, and apprenticeships.
  •  Employers are reluctant to invest in training.


What method(s) did the study use?

A survey of youth, education providers, and employers in nine countries (Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and an analysis of more than 100 education-to-employment initiatives from 25 countries.