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Youth in Pakistan plug into digital jobs of the future

Anna O'Donnell's picture
Omer Ahsan, a program trainee who is now successfully freelanacing online as a professional content writer. Photo Credit/Waleed Abbas

Omer Ahsan is a chartered accountant in the making from Waziristan. He first heard about the Youth Employment Program, a free digital skills program offered by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board, from discussions on a group chat over Whatsapp, and applied immediately. Within two weeks of completing the digital skills program, Omer has built an online profile and has successfully earned money as a professional content writer.

Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is emerging from decades of instability and conflict, and would seem an unlikely place for digital workers to thrive. But with nearly 16 million youth in the province, and few available jobs locally, there is a pressing need to think outside the box in terms of equipping young people with the skills, knowledge and capabilities to take on the future.

In 2015, together with the World Bank, a series of pilot programs were conducted to test a model of digital skill training for youth. Growing connectivity, cloud technology, and the emergence of new business outsourcing models have lowered the barriers to entry for global employment, even for youth in remote parts of Pakistan. The key ingredients to accessing this employment: access to the internet, basic skills, and awareness, and the pilot program tested different approaches to supporting youth to develop online work skills.

KP youth employment program participants are expanding their access opportunities through the program. Photo Credit/Waleed Abbas

Based on the results of this collaboration, the Government of KP launched the Youth Employment Program (YEP) in early 2016, offering free training for youth in freelancing. Around 50 students are accepted per training, and, based on their academic profiles classified into technical and non-technical groups. During the first 2 weeks, every trainee has to learn about the basics and essentials of freelancing which is a mandatory course requirement. Afterwards, those in the technical group with IT academic background are taught graphic design and website development skills. While the non-technical group members with varied but interdependent skills are trained in digital content writing and marketing through online multimedia platforms.

Samia Saeed is from Dir Lower, one of the remotest parts of the province. With a Masters in English Literature and teaching grade 2 students in a local private school, she always had the skills for content writing but lacked the knowledge of utilizing it to earn money. As she does a second review of her 800 words write-up on “Effectiveness of Online Learning”, Samia is excited about the prospect and potential of freelancing. “My first client was overall happy about the quality of the content I have drafted. I have been asked to review it further so that it becomes fit to print. That would be my first freelance working experience and I attribute that to YEP”.

YEP has been piloted in seven districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa so far, including Abbottabad, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Malakand, Mardan and Peshawar. The pilot phase will run until January 2017 with an aim to train 2100 students in digital freelancing, and will develop models to eventually expand digital skills to all youth in the province. YEP is the first publicly funded program in Pakistan that focuses on building practical skills to link youth with international job markets through cloud based technology.  In this way, the Government aims to bridge the widening gap between students who are graduating every year and jobs that are available locally.

For Muhammad Uzair Khan, logging into Fiverr every morning to review the status update on all the creative write-ups that he has posted on his profile has become a work ritual. Living in Peshawar and doing an MPhil in Biotechnology, he has learnt a great deal about content writing by polishing his skills for developing web blogs and digital content. “I always looked out for an opening that would enable me to offer my writing services to earn, but I just didn’t know how to make that work. With YEP, I have gained the practical knowledge and improved my writing skills to reach out to the world”.


Submitted by Anonymous on


Submitted by Sohail Arif on

Really happy to learn about this platform. KPK is growing in technology and digital jobs and entrepreneurship. I see a lot of talent in KPK youth as they are much more focused and hard working than other parts of Pakistan.

One blog of Islamic Quotes: is a proof that they are going beyond freelancing and exploring other options as well.

Submitted by Muhammad on

Respected Admin.
Subject: Selection criteria for YEP is not better,
I m applied many time for YEP but principal of concern technical college rejected me ,being a master degree holder (MSc Economics+ Diploma in information technology+Med) i m a suitable for training freelance website .
Regards: Muhammad Ehsan
Pakistan kpk D.i.khan

Submitted by Anna on

Dear Muhammad,

Sorry to hear of your experiences. Please know the selection criteria for the program was recently revamped and the program was re-launched based on this. We would encourage you to keep applying, as new batches will be coming up soon.

Submitted by Zeeshan on

Dear Muhammad,

Selection criteria are based on your skill, not on your degree's. You must have a professional skill like(Software/Web Development, Article Writing, Graphic designing, Pencil/Oil sketching, Video editing, etc). Now if you think you are best in any professional skill than apply again batch-4 interview is open till firday.

Zeeshan, Lead Trainer KP-YEP

Submitted by Big Problem on

The online payment services like Paypal, Aliexpress and Blockchain (Bitcoin) should be made available in Pakistan, like in India. Then you'll have all individuals doing online freelancing without a problem!
Can you advocate and convince Paypal and other private firms to allow Pakistani's to use their service? It's the biggest injustice!

Submitted by Muhammad Ali on

iam Muhammad Ali from Sanghar Sindh Pk Iam Graduate know iam trying to Gate Scholarship for forigen country to do My M Phil for Further study in World bank there is any Scholarship for Pakistani Students?

Submitted by Adeel Deta on

I believe it a kind of good effort by KP government to introduce such thing for employment.
Please review Education

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