(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The governments of Sri Lanka and the United States launched the YouLead! initiative on October 19, a Rs. 1.8 billion (US$ 12 million) program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support youth employability, vocational skills development, and entrepreneurship.
U.S. Ambassador Atul Keshap and Minister Chandima Weerakkody joined for the inauguration ceremony at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in Colombo.
Speaking at the event, Ambassador Keshap said, the future of Sri Lanka depends on young people gaining the skills and knowledge that will power the country’s prosperity.
Ambassador Keshap emphasized the significance of public-private partnerships, stating, “by deploying the resources and knowledge of government and business, YouLead! aligns global best-practice tools and training with in-demand jobs.”
The You Lead! Initiative will link unemployed Sri Lankan youth to both new and existing jobs and create or expand self-employment opportunities. Driven by skill development and on-the-job training, mentoring services, and private and public sector linkages, the initiative will also improve youth access to finance so that they can start their own businesses and generate further employment.
USAID and a coalition of partners from the Government of Sri Lanka, the private sector, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions will collaborate over the next four-years to help young Sri Lankans become more competitive in the labor market.
The Ambassador said over the course of the program they expect to partner with the private sector to train more than 1,200 counselors throughout the country to develop improved career guidance to more than 95,000 youth, better preparing them to join the job market.
This will in turn introduce 50 new curricula that are developed in close cooperation with public and private sector stakeholders in order to prioritize high growth sectors. YouLead! will specifically work to engage women and rural youth to ensure employment and that income disparities between men and women are reduced.
Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) will administer the USAID-funded YouLead! program, and International Executive Service Corps (IESC) will implement the program.
VEGA is a consortium of 28 member NGOs that bring together highly skilled volunteers with people around the globe seeking opportunities for self-reliance. IESC is an organization that has worked with hundreds of private enterprises in Sri Lanka since 1965. Under YouLead!, IESC will partner with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce, Arizona State University, Global Communities, Skills for Life, and Verité Research.