Expert Analysis

Five Principles of Successful Youth Employment Programs

What: Youth unemployment is one of the most pressing issues in many countries around the world. A measure of youth inactivity is provided by OECD with an indicator called neither employed nor in education or training (NEET) population. Among 35 OECD countries, Turkey has the highest rate among OECD with one in every three young people ages 15-29 being neither employed nor in education or training.

Why is this a problem: According to OECD, youth inactivity is a huge opportunity cost to the Turkish economy: We lose around $25 billion every year because of it (almost 3.4% of our Gross Domestic Product). However, unemployment does not only affect the economy. Another effect of youth inactivity is the increased risk of poverty amongst youth. Young people who are inactive are prone to becoming socially excluded, as they do not have the opportunity to connect with society through value-creation opportunities gained via access to the labor market. These social problems may cause further unexpected consequences, such as isolation, criminal activity and drug use.

What is the solution: Every problem presents a potential for an innovative solution in the eyes of social entrepreneurs. Kodluyoruz ( is a social enterprise founded to address the high youth unemployment problem in Turkey by providing pathways for youth in high-value tech sector. In only 2019, we are changing the life trajectories of almost 500 young people in Turkey from Istanbul to Şanlıurfa to Niğde.

How: Becoming an effective youth workforce development organization requires paying attention to the best practices. Several studies around the world identified five common characteristics of promising youth workforce development programs. Studies conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation, Public/Private Ventures, and Heartland Alliance agree on the following five best practices to start an effective job trainings program:

  1. Effective programs target youth who can benefit from the program most. Promising programs establish detailed intake processes, in which the interests, abilities, and qualifications of candidates are taken into consideration. For example, Kodluyoruz accepts only 10% of applicants after evaluating their drive, interests and background through a 3-tier selection process.
  2. The most successful programs are demand driven. Training curriculum within demand driven programs is designed with input from key industry employers. An effective sectoral strategy rests on a strong link with employers, resulting in a more concrete understanding of how the skills gained in trainings can meet the requirements of the labor market. To see how Kodluyoruz implemented this practice, see our Technology Sector Assessment Study for Turkey.
  3. Many programs implement a holistic approach to training, incorporating job readiness and life skills education along with technical skills.  Several programs also provide entrepreneurship trainings, and many offer skills training relevant to the broader digital economy. Five key soft skills for youth workforce success are communication, self-control, positive self-concept, and higher-order thinking skills.
  4. Post-training support.  Following training, many promising programs provide youth with internship and job placement services, as well as mentorship and career counseling. For Kodluyoruz, this means bringing youth together with tech companies upon graduation and supporting them through our Alumni Club – a lifelong learning community.
  5. Multi-stakeholder partnerships between the public and private sector are critical in order to scale and increase impact. Strong organizational capacity is needed to form partnerships and understand the specific needs of employers.

In Başlangıç Noktası, we believe that every single young person should have the opportunities to fully realize their potential. We hope that organizations in Turkey would use these five principles to benefit youth even more!


  • Adak, N. (2010) Unemployment as a social problem and its results. Society and Social Service Journal, 21(2), 105-116.
  • (2015). Minister Fikri Isik: Turkey Needs 70 Thousand ICT Personnell [Bakan Fikri Işık: Türkiye’nin 70 bin bilişim uzmanına ihtiyacı var]. Retrieved from
  • Celik, K. (2008). ‘My state is my father’: Youth unemployment experiences under the weak state welfare provisions of Turkey. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(4), 429-444.
  • Jayaram, S., Hill, T., Plaut, D., & Burnett, N. (2013). Training Models for Employment in the Digital Economy.Washington, DC: Results for Development Institute, Rockefeller Foundation.
  • Lippman, L. H., Ryberg, R., Carney, R., & Moore, K. A. (2015). Key “Soft Skills” that Foster Youth Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields.Bethesda, MD: Child Trends.
  • Maguire, S., Freely, J., Clymer, C., Conway, M., & Schwartz, D. (2010). Tuning in to Local Labor Markets: Findings from The Sectoral Employment Impact Study.New York, NY: Public/Private Ventures.
  • Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2016). Society at a Glance 2016, A Spotlight on Youth: How Does Turkey Compare? Paris, France: Author.
  • Warland, C., Applegate, D., Schnur, C., & Jones, J. (2015). Providing True Opportunity for Opportunity Youth: Promising Practices and Principles for Helping Youth Facing Barriers to Employment. Chicago, IL: Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity.

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