September 12, 2017

Future of Work Blog Series | Youth on the Move: Migration, employment, and young people’s success in Kenya and beyond

Written by Amy Sink Davies, Senior Director for Food Security and Agriculture, RTI International & Eric Johnson, Senior Research Economist, RTI International

This post originally appeared on the Youth Economic Opportunities website. Reposted with permission.

As one of East Africa’s rising economic stars, Kenya continues to serve as a model for development progress. But with one in six young people in Kenya currently jobless, development partners have very rightly begun to factor youth empowerment into projects in nearly every sector.

USAID’s flagship youth employment program in Kenya – the Kenya Youth Employment and Skills Program (K-YES) implemented by RTI International – works across nine counties to create pathways to employment and turn the youth bulge into a demographic dividend. A five-year, $22 million effort, K-YES is leveraging the energy and passion of youth to improve the market-relevant job and business skills of young people. To date, the project has reached more than 120,000 individuals from vulnerable populations (including youth, women, and persons with disabilities) with business and employment services, successfully placing 12,000 young people into new or improved jobs through partnerships with more than 50 employers. About 85,000 young people have been successfully registered for ID cards by the program, providing them an asset that’s essential for registering for school, accessing government services or financial products from formal financial institutions, qualifying for formal employment, and voting.

During this year’s Making Cents Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit, we will share how RTI is leveraging its own innovative research to inform the learning processes of K-YES and other youth-centered programs around the globe. Building out what’s currently a limited evidence base available to inform the design of youth-focused workforce development and agriculture programs, we’re establishing reliable and comparable data on better training and employment outcomes of youth who are increasingly on the move.

In one case, we’re tracking 2,500 alumni from 23 vocational colleges in three Kenyan counties to help determine how “localized” workforce development markets are, helping colleges better understand the geographic dimensions of their student in-take and graduate out-flows. Such research will inform how schools design programs, recruit students, and place their graduates, all of which can lead to better employment outcomes for students over time.

In another RTI-funded study, we’re using a mixed-methods approach to determine what drivers and barriers affect Kenyan young people’s migration patterns in-country, with a specific focus on youth who have migrated out of pastoral and agricultural areas. Through this new research, we’re building an understanding of youth decision making, networks, and safety net strategies employed during their migration experience. This work is expected to inform resilience and agriculture-related programming by helping implementers better target the youth bulge in program planning.

The long-term economic success of Kenya will depend largely on how the country manages its youth unemployment challenges. We hope you’ll join our breakout sessions on September 27 & 28 to find out how our current and future research and programs can help the country – and many others around the world – to do it.

Want to learn more about RTI’s work with youth? Visit our Global Center for Youth Employment.