Business Skills Empower Youth Across the Globe

TechnoServe and the Citi Foundation are partnering to help youth develop skills for achieving business success.

Armed with a marketing plan she developed during the Crece Tu Empresa program, Laura Valencia (left) is boosting sales at her fitness studio.

A skilled dancer living in Merliot City, El Salvador, 31-year-old Laura Valencia decided to channel her passion into a profession by teaching fitness classes. She took the plunge and opened her own studio, Activate Fit & Dance, but struggled with managing her new business and driving sales.

Even armed with intelligence and drive, many young people in developing countries face unique challenges in obtaining and maintaining sustainable employment. And they may lack the confidence and business acumen to thrive as entrepreneurs. The Citi Foundation and TechnoServe are partnering to bridge the gap between young people’s raw potential and economic success on three continents.

Promoting Entrepreneurship in Central America

In Central America, Citi and TechnoServe have partnered on Crece Tu Empresa, or “Grow your Business,” a project that teaches business best practices to young entrepreneurs. Through six training sessions, participants learn hard business skills such as balancing a ledger, marketing, and networking. These sessions also connect working youth to mentors who help them master critical soft skills. By learning how to communicate, problem solve, and work as a team, participants finish the program qualified to face the business world head on.

Before she joined the Crece Tu Empresa program, Laura was not accurately valuing or marketing her fitness expertise and did not have a business plan. Participation in the training taught her how to calculate her costs, value her product, create a social media and web presence for her business, and build an exhaustive business model. As a result, she has been able to markedly increase operational capability, hiring new staff and pursuing certifications from organizations such as the International Sports & Fitness Association (IFSA).

Since launching in 2015, Crece Tu Empresa has worked with around 700 youths across Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama, helping them increase their sales by an average of 51% and generate more than 250 jobs. More than half of the entrepreneurs graduating from the program are women, too.

Youth Workforce Development in India

On the other side of the world, after receiving the Citi Foundation’s India Innovation grant in 2016, TechnoServe launched the CREEYD program, short for “Creating Employment and Empowerment through Youth Development,” which provided training and employment opportunities for career-oriented youth in Mumbai.

As part of the CREEYD program, Divya Ganeshan learned interview skills that helped her land a job in the banking sector.

The CREEYD program targeted 1,250 mostly first-generation college students in their final year, right before most enter the workforce. Many of CREEYD’s participants showed passion and drive – but lacked key work-readiness skills. The program focused on providing them with English-language training, employer-led subject matter training, training on managing personal finance, and career counseling.

As of June 2017, The CREEYD program had trained nearly 1,200 students from impoverished backgrounds, across 18 college career centers in Mumbai. Additionally, since CREEYD’s launch in mid-August of 2016, 450 students were placed through the program’s corporate linkages’ efforts while over 250 students had interviews.

Divya Ganeshan was one such student, a recent graduate of S.P.N. Doshi Women’s College. While her parents always supported her dreams of education, they struggled with their own financial obligations. Divya and her family faced several tragedies, including death and illness, before she joined the program. Divya persevered, though, and joined the CREEYD program while pursuing her studies.

After her very first job interview, Divya was able to land a job at ICICI Bank. She was thrilled to be able to contribute to her family’s economic stability.

Another trainee, Yasmeen Mahmood Shaikh, reported similar success. “Because of [the program] I could crack the job interview and have secured a job in insurance sales! My family and I are so happy about this opportunity…and how much impact it will make to my household finances.”

Tackling Global Youth Unemployment

These efforts are ongoing, with additional employment-related programs taking shape each year. In Tanzania, for example, the Pan-African Youth Entrepreneur Development (PAYED) program, a partnership with Citi Foundation, equips young entrepreneurs with the skills they need to gain formal employment or run their own businesses.

And, although the pandemic has made implementing these programs, they’ve adapted to the times and continue to support young people around the world.