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Improving the quality of skills training: What the Adolescent Girls Initiative pilots can teach us

Sarah Haddock's picture

The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) through its eight pilots taught us a great deal about how to make skills training more female-friendly and support young women's transition to productive employment. In addition to all the lessons we learned about working with young women, the pilots also taught us a lot about how to improve the overall quality of skills training.

Our Top 5 quality enhancement lessons, along with links to more information, can be found online in our Resource Guide and here:

Lesson 1: Skills training projects need to set realistic expectations for self-employment versus wage employment. In contexts with limited opportunities for wage employment, skills training projects should help orient youth to the likelihood of self-employment and develop content suitable to different levels of aspiration in that sphere. In Liberia, for example, we offered a job skills track and a business skills track. We ended up having to gradually reduce the size of the job skills track from 35 percent of trainees in Round 1 to just 18 percent in Round 3 after our impact evaluation showed the employment rate in the business skills track was much stronger. This wasn’t easy—it involved changing the orientation of the client, the training providers, and the girls themselves.  

Lesson 2: Involving the private sector can improve the market relevance and overall effectiveness of training. AGI pilots partnered with the private sector in the implementation arrangements by hiring private companies to provide training tailored to the needs of a specific firm/sector—as in the Rwanda AGI—and by hiring private sector training and employment service companies to deliver training and assist with job placement—as in Haiti, Liberia, and Nepal. We also took low-cost steps to engage the private sector throughout implementation. For example, the Liberia AGI organized Private Sector Working Groups to provide routine guidance on project activities and enlisted members of the private sector to inspire the trainees by serving as guest speakers in the classroom.

Lesson 3: Post-training support is critical and must be planned and budgeted for early on. Even Getting the training up and running always seems like priority number one, but over the course of implementing the AGI pilots we learned that we needed to do a better job planning and budgeting for more structured and intensive post-training support from the very beginning of each project. The AGI pilots provided three to six months of post-training job placement assistance—such as internships, job search coaching, and so on—or business advisory services—such as business mentoring and check-ins, linkages to micro-franchises and business capital, etc. The exact balance of classroom training versus placement support hasn’t been rigorously tested, but our experience suggests this support can really help trainees put their new skills to use in the labor market. An extended follow-up period may be particularly important for young women just entering the labor market or breaking into non-traditional trades.

Lesson 4: Improving the monitoring and verification of employment outcomes is essential if we want to improve employment outcomes in skills training projects. Many projects don’t monitor attendance or performance during training, let alone keep track of participants after training ends. AGI pilots monitored business and job performance and verified employment outcomes up to six months after classroom training ended. The pilots relied on self-reporting by service providers, then verified these claims among a random sample of trainees (about 25 percent) by talking with employers, local women, and community members, and by accessing the trainee’s business records. The percentage of employed youth in the sample was then extrapolated to the population that the training provider claimed to be employed. In Liberia and Nepal, where pilots implemented results-based contracts, this extrapolation was used as a basis for the final payment. Any inaccurate claims by training providers proportionally reduced their payment and could jeopardize eligibility for future rounds of training. In the Resource Guide, you can download the employment/business verification strategy from the Liberia AGI, as well as tools for monitoring and placement verification.

Lesson 5: Performance-based incentives are operationally feasible—even in fragile settings—and seem to improve outcomes, though this is an area for more rigorous testing. We used results-based contracts for training providers in the relatively small program in Liberia, targeting 2,500 young women, as well as in the Nepal AGI, which was embedded in a larger program that trains 15,000 youth annually. Both projects achieved impressive results and we hypothesize that the performance incentives for the service providers accounts for this in part.

A forthcoming and final blog in this series will address recommendations for future learning and research from the AGI.
 

Why countries in Middle East and North Africa should invest in Youth Volunteering

Rene Leon Solano's picture


There were over 1,000 Lebanese youths together in one large auditorium, all from different communities, confessions and party affiliations. Some were chanting the Lebanese national anthem, waving the country’s flag. Others were holding hands, and screaming every time their pictures or that of their new friends appeared on a large screen. These young men and women all had one thing in common: they put aside their different socio-economic, religious, and political backgrounds and gave up their spare time to jointly identify and implement community projects across Lebanon.

5 Arab women who are breaking down stereotypes and building their countries

Bassam Sebti's picture

There is a horrible old saying in some Arab countries: Women belong to their homes and husbands only. They shouldn’t be educated, work, or have an opinion. This belief, unfortunately, still dominates some areas in the Arab world. But modern, educated, and strong-willed Arab women and men find this saying backward and unfitting.

Women are 49.7% of about 345.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region. Some in the West think of these women as zipped up in a tent in the desert, probably beaten up by their husbands, a stereotype many of today’s Arab women fight and prove wrong.

Yes, there are still many barriers remaining in the way of closing the gender gap in the Arab world, but many advances have been made in education, politics, entrepreneurship, labor, and health. Arab women today are entrepreneurs, leaders, activists, educators, Nobel Prize winners, and much more. They are reshaping their societies and building a better road to gender equality and girl empowerment for generations to come.

Here are some of many stories on how women from different Arab countries are reshaping their societies and fighting gender inequality:

Making skills training female-friendly: What pilots from the Adolescent Girls Initiative can teach us

Sarah Haddock's picture
The global jobs crisis has fueled interest globally in how to improve the quality of skills training programs to prepare people for productive employment. The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) has some of the best results to-date among skills training projects that have been rigorously evaluated, so it makes sense to ask what made these pilots successful.

From 2008-2015, we implemented pilots in eight countries, with the aim of supporting young women’s transition to productive employment. The AGI marked the Bank’s first experience working with this population—adolescent girls and young women—on this topic—skills and employment. We learned a great deal lot along the way, which we have collated in an online Resource Guide to share with other teams.

Two models

We tested two main program models—a classroom-based Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) model that delivered job and business skills plus life skills, and a Girls’ Club model that delivered life skills and short livelihood trainings in community-based safe space clubs. Both significantly impacted economic outcomes for young women, though the Girls’ Club model was far less expensive.

In Liberia, for example, the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG) project—a TVET, classroom-based program—increased participants' employment by 47 percent and earnings by 80 percent. In Uganda, meanwhile, the Girl's Club program raised the likelihood of girls’ engagement in income-generating activities by 35 percent and had large impacts on risky sexual behaviors and the girls’ experience of violence.

A recent meta-analysis of Active Labor Market Policies (ALMPs) suggests that average program effects tend to be larger for females, and that training and other human capital interventions are particularly effective among women. This suggests that both AGI models—classroom-based vocational training and community-based Girls' Club training—should continue to be implemented and tested across a variety of settings.

Lessons learned

So what made the AGI projects effective for young women?

First, AGI worked hard to get girls into the projects and to keep them there—which is challenging in itself, especially for younger girls. We know that attrition from training programs is high, but we don’t really know the magnitude of the problem because so many projects don’t monitor or report individual attendance. When projects do report attrition and disaggregate by sex, they often find young women drop out more than young men and for different reasons. AGI pilots were able to successfully recruit young women and maintained completion rates above 90 percent.

Here are some of the steps AGIs took to recruit young women and retain them: Another key female-friendly feature of AGI projects was their explicit aim to steer women towards more profitable trades. By default, many skills training programs channel young women into traditionally female fields that are often less lucrative and less secure. Breaking down job segregation isn’t easy, but it is possible—and should, arguably, be an objective of projects aimed at improving economic outcomes for women.

Providing girls with accurate information about the returns to various male- and female-dominated trades is a first step. An experiment in Kenya provided such information and was able to get young women to sign up for training in male-dominated trades, but later on they were no more likely to complete training or pursue work in those trades than young women who had not received the information.

Qualitative work in Uganda among women who successfully "crossed over" into male-dominated fields found the presence of male role models early in a young woman’s career was an important factor, suggesting further that information alone isn’t enough.

Here are some things AGIs did to break occupational segregation:
  • Conducted local labor market assessments that intentionally explored market demand in non-traditional trades for women;
  • Included an orientation period to educate participants about their training options;
  • Encouraged women to enter non-traditional trades in groups;
  • Supported participants with mentors, other role models from the community, and careful monitoring for potential unintended consequences.

So what’s the bottom line?

Being intentional about designing and implementing projects that work well for young women requires more planning and resources up front, but the results are impressive—making the investment worthwhile. A single program doesn’t have to do it all—strategies for making training female-friendly need to make sense in the local context.

Forthcoming blogs will explore broader "good practice" lessons from the AGI—not specific to young women—and highlight recommendations for future research and learning.
 

The legal problems of refugees

Paul Prettitore's picture
Refugees - Lukasz Z l Shutterstock

Like other vulnerable people, refugees are likely to encounter legal problems. These problems are often linked directly to their displacement, but also reflect general problems poor people encounter related to family, civil, and criminal matters. The longer a person’s displacement, the more legal problems that tend to arise, especially those problems that are less closely linked to displacement.  And these problems begin to strain local institutions.  The Ministry of Justice has reported increased caseloads of 84 percent in Mafraq, 77 percent in Irbid and 50 percent in Amman, all of which are areas with considerable refugee populations.

Getting Syrians back to work – a win-win for host countries and the refugees

John Speakman's picture
 John Speakman l World Bank

For the last six weeks or so I have been more or less full time engaged in thinking about how we can generate employment opportunities for Syrians in countries that are hosting them, particularly those located in Syria’s near neighbors.  I have reflected on my experience in working on private sector development in Syria nearly a decade ago.  As someone who had worked in virtually every country in the Middle East I was amazed at the country’s industrial potential. 

Jordan’s Syrian Refugees – what a difference a year makes

Omer Karasapan's picture
 Shutterstock l Melih Cevdet Teksen

In February 2015 a blog in these pages tried to draw attention to the plight of the Syrian refugees in Jordan. This was before the drastic cuts in aid over 2015 by severely underfunded humanitarian agencies and before the massive refugee influx into Europe. For Syria’s neighboring countries, Europe’s “refugee crisis” was only the latest stage of a much bigger crisis they had been weathering since  2011. That same blog had also called for greater outside support for Jordan and its host communities - as well as for the refugees - and there are encouraging signs on both fronts, even as the severity of the crisis continues to grow.

Resilience, refugees, and education for change

Harry A. Patrinos's picture


As the world struggles to cope with the stream of refugees coming out of Syria, there is an urgent need to advance education opportunities. This is not to just thwart radicalization, as United Nations special envoy for global education Gordon Brown argues, but to ensure that we invest in building refugee children’s human capital.

Just across the Mediterranean – The Transition from COP21 to COP22

Jonathan Walters's picture
Rabat, Morocco - Arne Hoel l World Bank

France has just hosted COP21 to a very successful conclusion: the 2015 Paris Agreement. This achieved consensus among 196 countries on the most complex and challenging global issue of our time – climate change. It reconciled the widely different perspectives and interests of developing and developed countries, the North-South divide which has been at the heart of the failure to reach climate change agreement for twenty years. It makes global trade negotiations look easy by comparison. France should have every confidence in its diplomatic and political ability. Chapeau!

Did data miss the Arab Uprisings?

Mohamed Younis's picture
Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egypt. Hang Dinh / Shutterstock.com

In the build up to the Arab uprisings, data was doing its part to deceive those who follow the region closely. Tunisia and Egypt provide great examples. Both nations closed the first decade of the century implementing the kind of classic economic reforms often praised by western-based multilateral and international organizations. Extremely qualified, intelligent and well-meaning experts on both countries took an objective look at reforms, GDP trajectories and other traditional metrics, such as infant mortality rates, poverty reduction, etc., and concluded that these countries, while not perfect, were moving forward along a path of increasing correction. A few weeks later, both nations were in complete political upheaval.  

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