Youth Pathways – Central America (YPCA): Promoting Youth Employment through Employer Partnerships in El Salvador and Honduras
YPCA works to improve livelihoods for at-risk youth to prevent their engagement in exploitative labor and the worst forms of child labor. The project provides at-risk youth with skills and education directly related to labor market needs in a safe learning environment; helps at-risk youth secure and retain employment; promotes youth employment through business partnerships; and strengthens government and community organizations’ ability to support relevant vocational training and employment opportunities for youth. In the aftermath of hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic, the project began meeting short-term and emergency needs of project participants, including providing supermarket vouchers and in-kind food and hygiene products to children engaged in the project. The project has also been providing start-up inputs and technical training to support the establishment of home gardens.
Several factors impede young people in El Salvador and Honduras from accessing quality training and obtaining good jobs once they enter the labor market. Poverty, pervasive violence, and low quality schooling that does adequately prepare youth for the workforce combine to push children out of the school system and into potentially hazardous forms of child labor, including in illicit activities. Youth who reside in areas with high levels of poverty and violence often have difficulty securing formal jobs and experience high levels of unemployment and underemployment. Additionally, these factors can push some children to migrate, leaving them particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation and abuse.
The project seeks to improve livelihoods for at-risk youth in order to prevent their engagement in exploitative labor and the worst forms of child labor. The project’s four main objectives are to:
- Provide at-risk youth with skills and education directly related to labor market needs, in a safe learning environment;
- Help at-risk youth secure and retain employment;
- Promote youth employment through business partnerships; and
- Strengthen government and community organizations’ ability to support relevant vocational training and employment opportunities for youth.
The project provides direct services for at-risk youth to build their personal, academic, workplace, and entrepreneurial skills. These include career-focused programming for youth, job placement and self-employment services, holistic support services for youth and their families, protections for youth under threat, and case management.
To support countries in improving youth workforce development systems, the project takes a holistic approach. It engages private sector actors to support opportunities for youth employment. It encourages government and community organizations to adopt effective job training models for at-risk youth. And it carries out critical research on youth labor markets.
The project places a special emphasis on returned migrant youth, ensuring this at-risk group is integrated into educational and vocational programs.
- The employment rate of YPCA participants, primarily at-risk youth with low education, matched the national youth employment rate in Honduras and surpassed it in El Salvador.
- With a strong focus on gender, the YPCA project reduced gender gaps on project participants’ employment rates in both countries: from 35 to 16 percentage points in Honduras, and from 26 to 14 points in El Salvador.
- In the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the YPCA project pivoted to address the most urgent needs of its participants by providing emergency food and hygiene vouchers to 733 participants and start-up support and technical training for 249 home gardens.