A Future
Youth Want

2017 Annual Report


Mikayla Sullivan—a 2017 YouthActionNet® Laureate Global Fellow—is making a difference in the world through the work she does with KinoSol, a company she co-founded to address the global problem of food waste. Using a solar food dehydrator, Mikayla and team are reducing post-harvest loss in a sustainable way that creates year-round food security for the families who need it most. Together with Laureate International Universities, IYF's YouthActionNet initiative helps young change-makers like Mikayla to shape the future with passion and purpose.

Facing Uncertainty

Conversations about the future of work are complicated because the issue of employment is not isolated; rather, it’s connected with other complex themes such as technology, civic engagement, and gender. And young people are at the center of this discussion, with millennials expected to become the majority of the work force in just a few years.

Much has been written about the future of work, and not surprisingly, more questions than answers have emerged. How will advances in technology and automation impact global employment prospects? Which existing jobs will vanish and which as-yet unimagined positions will arise? Which cutting-edge skills will become obsolete, and which ones will become indispensable? Will discrimination in practices of hiring, on-the-job treatment, and promotion persist or finally be relegated to the rubbish bin of history? What impact will our economic future have on other vital areas of life like health, security, and civic engagement?

Despite the uncertainty, young women and men are enthusiastic to create the lives they desire and deserve. Many are already well on the way to becoming the leaders, innovators, and change-makers the world so desperately needs. Young people have ideas to share about what they expect from laws and policies affecting their lives. They have creative insights to offer about how to address the world’s most significant issues—from improving educational access for low-income communities, to helping citizens with disabilities thrive, to combating all-too-pervasive gender discrimination and inequity.

No one knows exactly what the future of work will hold, but one thing is clear: young people can, must, and will be at the center of it all.


Heeding Youth Voice


High school students have a voice in deciding on programmatic components of the LEAPS initiative. Created in partnership with BHP, LEAPS works with and through local organizations in West Texas, South Texas, and Northwest Louisiana to equip the areas' young people with the skills and services needed to succeed in school, work, and life and to become more engaged members of their communities.

01Heeding Youth Voice

Youth know where they want to go and what they need to get there. Just as IYF is committed to ensuring our work incorporates and responds to young people's perspectives and lived experiences, it’s important for those in positions of power—the leaders of organizations, corporations, and nations—to listen to young people.

In 2017, in partnership with Hilton, IYF published the Global Youth Wellbeing Index, the culmination of a study incorporating objective data about the state of affairs in 30 countries with the perspectives and opinions of young people about the state of their own wellbeing.

Serving as a benchmark for seven of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders, the Index shows that—even when progress remains to be made at the country level—youth are overwhelmingly open-minded, optimistic, and enthusiastic about the future and their place in it.

2017 Global Youth Wellbeing Index

of youth in Index countries agree that women should have all the same rights as men.

About 2 out of every 10 youth in Index countries are not working but want to be.

Two out of three youth surveyed feel their government does not care about their wants and needs.

of youth surveyed feel they will be able to get the kind of job they want.

The Index also functions as a call to action for those in positions of power. Youth envision—and expect—a future where they can secure the employment they want, and where women and men are accorded the same rights, opportunities, and respect. While the Index reveals heartening news, it's important not to squander the tremendous resource youth optimism and enthusiasm represent. Rather we need to encourage and enable youth to tap into that potential and recognize their own agency.

The time is now for leaders to listen to, heed, and engage with young people in meaningful ways. The future depends on it.

“Young people's vibrant optimism must be connected to the skills and opportunities they are given or can access to fulfill their hopes for the future.”

— 2017 Global Youth Wellbeing Index


Future-Proof Skills


Through the New Employment Opportunities (NEO) initiative, young men and women in the Dominican Republic receive life skills and market-driven training, and career guidance services. Led by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), through its Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and Labor Markets Unit in partnership with IYF, NEO has contributed to closing the workforce gap between youth preparedness and employer demand in 10 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

02 Future-Proof Skills

In the knowledge economy, technical skills have expiration dates, and smart machines perform job functions that once required human hands and minds. Critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and the ability to adapt to new situations are just a few of the life skills that are timeless, transferable, and future-proof.

Our History of Life Skills Training

In 2004, IYF partnered with GE to develop Passport to Success® (PTS), our flagship life and work readiness skills program. Noted for its adaptability and focus on experiential learning, PTS has evolved to meet the changing demands of the market and the needs of employer and employee alike. In 2013, IYF partnered with Hilton to develop a PTS curriculum specifically for the hospitality industry. After a successful pilot year, the program was expanded to benefit thousands of Hilton employees worldwide through a delivery system consisting of multiple options—in-person, online, and blended learning.

Measuring Life Skills and Work Readiness

Employers want a means of measuring life skills and work readiness in their current and prospective employees to identify reskilling opportunities, and employees want a way to document and demonstrate their life skills competencies to current and future employers.

To satisfy this demand, IYF and partner ACT are developing a life skills and work readiness assessment based on the most relevant advances in the science of non-cognitive testing. Currently, ACT is revising the assessment based on findings from the recent pilot phase. When it is made available in the near future, the work readiness assessment will be compatible not only with IYF’s Passport to Success, but also with a range of other life skills curricula on the market.

An impact evaluation of Passport to Success conducted in Chihuahua, Mexico, found that students who had participated in PTS demonstrated a increase in GPA.

The same study found that participation in Passport to Success is associated with a reduction in the average rate of dropouts between semesters.


Creating Opportunities for a Future that Works


At a Zangar STEAM Fest in Kazakhstan, young volunteers teach children about science through hands-on activities. In partnership with Chevron and the Akimat of the Atyrau Region, the Zangar initiative works with local implementing organizations to foster the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and life skills of local young men and women.

03 Creating Opportunities for a Future that Works

To succeed in an uncertain future, learning will become a lifelong endeavor. It will take place not only in traditional academic settings, but also in specialized technical and vocational training facilities, as part of on-the-job upskilling and reskilling programs, and in other contexts that meet the needs of employees and employers alike.

Of course, not all youth are afforded the same opportunities to succeed. Some young people lack access to quality education, market-relevant skills training, fundamental life skills, or mentorship and career guidance. Others face factors like cultural norms and prohibitive gender stereotypes that prevent them from following their interests and aptitudes.

In 2017, through a combination of new and continuing partnerships and initiatives, IYF worked to ensure that youth everywhere have the training, resources, support, and opportunities to transform the future they envision into reality.

“Every young person around the world should be equipped with digital skills, which also teach creativity and critical thinking, and all of which are imperative for success in our rapidly changing workplace.”

— Mary Snapp Vice President, Microsoft Philanthropies
  • As young people transition from school to career, they need to understand what jobs are available, what sectors are growing, what skills are in demand, and what paths are open to take. New Employment Opportunities (NEO)—an initiative led by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), through its Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and its Labor Markets Unit, and IYF—has been connecting young people with the services and information they need as they make this difficult transition. Creating alliances between 1,000 organizations and companies in 10 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, NEO facilitates important conversations that ensure young people get the skills demanded by the market, and then find jobs where they can put those skills to work and earn a decent living.
  • In 2017, IYF partnered with UNICEF’s Middle East and North African regional office and a host of other young development agencies to create the Life Skills and Citizenship Education (LSCE) initiative. LSCE includes an assessment of current life skills curricula in 15 countries across the region to determine reforms necessary to bridge a gap in life skills that employers and employees both identify as critical. The results of this assessment were used to create a Conceptual and Programmatic Framework. This work defines and explains life skills, and how they dovetail with civic education. Moreover, it outlines a holistic vision and strategies for reforming curricular content and teaching.
  • STEM is a rapidly growing field in Kazakhstan, and the Zangar initiative reaches young people there with hands-on learning and training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and complementary, work-relevant life skills. IYF developed the initiative in partnership with the Atyrau, Kazakhstan, regional government and Chevron, as part of their Atyrau Youth Development Initiative. To date, the initiative has reached more than 3,600 young people with life skills training, and more than 2,400 with STEM training. In addition to working directly to benefit young people, the Zangar initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of local organizations and institutes, to foster trilateral partnerships between NGOs and stakeholders from the public and private sectors, and to create a sustainable ecosystem to magnify the youth-serving impact for many years to come. During 2017, these efforts were recognized by members of central and local government, including a visit to Atyrau Fabrication Laboratory by the Secretary of State of Kazakhstan.

Snapshot of 2017 Participants

Since 1990, IYF has worked in over 100 countries, directly impacting 7.4 million young people and indirectly benefiting an additional 12 million. In 2017, with the help of global and local partners, those numbers continued to grow. As you’ll see below, the youth we serve come from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, but they all possess the potential to shape the future with passion and purpose.

  • With partner BHP, IYF created the LEAPS initiative to work with middle and high schools, community colleges, and local non-profits to expand existing programming as well as bring new programming and services for teens in regions of Texas and Louisiana. Locally tailored programming includes soft skill training, career exposure and planning, on-the-job training; teen civic leadership, and mental health and wellness. By engaging and supporting communities to target needs and gaps they identify as critical to meeting their local goals, and strengthening the capacity and resources of local organizations, the initiative ensures that young men and women will benefit from LEAPS far into the future.
  • Many young people in Mozambique and Tanzania plan to pursue a mix of wage-earning jobs and entrepreneurship but frequently discover they are underprepared for both. Via: Pathways to Work, an initiative of IYF and the Mastercard Foundation, pairs market-relevant training geared towards technical and vocational careers and entrepreneurship with life skills training, career guidance, and job placement support. Not only has Via impacted the lives of thousands of participants, but the initiative has strengthened partner organizations’ and institutions’ capacity to provide future generations of young people with the training, services, and support they need to shine. 
  • Knowing that young women often face gender-specific workplace challenges, IYF adapted our Descubre tu Vocación curriculum to incorporate gender into the career guidance process. As students learn about themselves and their environments and create a professional development plan, they also develop a critical awareness of the role gender plays in the workplace—from analyzing gender stereotypes to understanding the benefits of a diverse workforce.

“Technology plays an important role in the future of work, especially for girls and young women. Not only are young women using new technologies to leapfrog market and workplace barriers that in the past stood in their way, they are also shaping design and driving innovation in the field of technological development.”

— Naadiya Moosajee2009 YouthActionNet Laureate Global Fellow and Co-Founder of WomEng
  • The (Re)Connecting Youth initiative, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is based on the belief that in the 21st century, organizations—not just individuals—must reimagine what it means to learn. Focusing on “opportunity youth”—a term referring to youth who aren’t in school, training, or employment, but who only need the right opportunity to tap into their potential—the initiative facilitates cross-border dialogues, knowledge sharing, and learning exchanges between youth development agencies in the United States (New Orleans and Baltimore) with peer organizations in Brazil and Mexico (Belo Horizonte and Tijuana, respectively). The experience led to important strategy insights for helping reconnect young people around the world with the resources they need to thrive.
  • YouthActionNet®, an initiative of IYF and signature partner Laureate International Universities, connects young leaders and social entrepreneurs with resources to continue changing the world in amazing ways. YouthActionNet’s Laureate Global Fellows receive 10 to 12 months of training, mentoring, networking, and funding opportunities from one of IYF’s 23 local and national youth leadership institutes. Currently, there are 1,700-plus Fellows across more than 90 countries, impacting more than 1.7 million lives. The 2017 class of Laureate Global Fellows are working to solve a range of societal issues, from assisting ethnically diverse youth in Sri Lanka who experienced trauma during the civil war to helping girls and young women in Poland speak out against gender discrimination. These young leaders are proof that, when given support and opportunities, youth can accomplish anything.

YouthActionNet® Global Impact 2017





  • IYF’s Zimbabwe:Works (Z:W) initiative, in partnership with DFID, USAID, and the Embassy of Sweden, provided work readiness training to nearly 29,000 young people in Zimbabwe. This training in technical and vocational skills, life skills, financial literacy, and business development prepared them to enter the workforce equipped, confident, and ready to thrive. Young women accounted for 61 percent of youth reached, and 73 percent of youth who received microloans through the program were women. IYF engaged 745 local private sector partners who offered participants internships that, in 80 percent of cases, resulted in full-time employment. Z:W also strengthened the capacity of local partners, laying a strong foundation for future success.
  • There are growing opportunities in the technical and vocational fields; however, employers report difficulty finding qualified candidates. With support from USAID Mexico, the Rutas initiative reached over 90,000 youth to date in Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon. Rutas promoted structural reforms to better align Mexico’s system of technical high schools and the labor needs of the country’s most dynamic industries—from aerospace and IT to tourism and manufacturing. In addition to training in technical specialties, Rutas participants received life skills training with Passport to Success and career guidance via Descubre tu Vocación. Beyond Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon, the Rutas approach continues to be replicated in many other states of Mexico, amplifying the initiative’s system change impact.


Meet Our New Board Members


At this Via-supported Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA) center in Dar es Salaam, students learn skills sought after in the fitter mechanics industry, including machine maintenance and the manufacturing of small machine parts. In partnership with Mastercard Foundation, IYF started Via: Pathways to Work to equip youth in Mozambique and Tanzania with market-relevant skills and to drive change in the technical and vocational education and training system.

04Meet Our New Board Members

Featuring leaders and change-makers from around the world, IYF’s Board of Directors shares a commitment to helping young people everywhere succeed in work and life. In 2017, we gained two new board members whose extraordinary experiences, perspectives, and knowledge will contribute to advancing IYF’s mission and vision. We proudly welcome our new board members to the IYF family.

Umran Beba

Umran Beba is Global Diversity, Engagement and Talent Officer at PepsiCo. She joined the company in 1994 in her native Turkey, and her prior roles include President of PepsiCo’s Asia-Pacific Region and SVP and CHRO for PepsiCo Asia, Middle East, and North Africa. Committed to diversity and inclusion, she has led female talent development efforts for PepsiCo in dozens of countries. Ms. Beba received her MBA and a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering from Turkey’s Bogaziçi University. She joined the IYF board in 2017.

Read an interview with Umran

“My goal as a board member is to help advance IYF's mission of enabling young people to achieve their full potential and shape a future that holds great opportunities for all.”

— Umran Beba
Sheldon Smith

A champion for children in Chicago and beyond, Sheldon Smith is the Founder and Executive Director of The Dovetail Project, an organization dedicated to equipping young African-American fathers with the skills, support, and opportunities they need to be “better fathers to their children and better men in their communities.” With over 330 graduates since 2009, The Dovetail Project is making a profound impact in the lives of families and communities while helping to change the negative narrative about young black men—especially fathers—in Chicago and elsewhere. A 2011 YouthActionNet® Laureate Global Fellow, Mr. Smith was recognized with a 2012 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Award, named one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2016, and included in Forbes magazine’s 2018 30 Under 30 for social entrepreneurs. Among these and many other achievements, he is most proud of being a devoted father to Jada, his daughter—and greatest accomplishment.

Read an interview with Sheldon

“I am excited to support the next generation of youth leaders as a board member ... by bringing new and innovative ideas to engage and educate youth.”

— Sheldon Smith


CEO Letter


Young women in Guadalajara, Mexico, participate in a focus group to provide insight into their expectations, needs, and challenges with respect to education, training, and employment. In partnership with the PepsiCo Foundation, Pathways to Success—Guadalajara will enable 20,000 young women to progress through school and be successful in the workforce.

05 CEO Letter

Bill Reese,

We cannot know exactly what the labor landscape will look like in the future, but it’s clear that our world—where quantum jumps in technology happen seemingly overnight, and market demands change almost as quickly—is not slowing down. From the assembly line floor, to the office of the accountant, robots and smart machines are performing an increasingly complex range of tasks effectively and efficiently.

So, what should we tell our young women and men about how best to prepare for the future of work?

We should emphasize the importance of lifelong learning. Graduating from high school, or college, or from a vocational and technical training program, is certainly worthwhile, but learning can’t stop with the obtainment of any diploma, degree, or certificate. When they secure employment, young women and men must be ready and able to reimagine their roles and functions and to reskill when necessary. It’s up to all of us—public and private sectors, academic and training institutes, governments, businesses, youth-serving organizations, and young people themselves—to ensure that opportunities for learning as a frequent, continuous endeavor are available and meet the real needs of youth.

In addition, we should remember that while machines can perform some functions well, perhaps even better than humans in certain cases, they can’t do everything. The ability to encounter and respond to novel circumstances, to read the non-quantifiable nuances of a situation, to solve never before encountered problems with innovative thinking—this requires something that humans have, and machines don’t, and likely never will: creativity.

In fact, it is our creative capacity that fosters the kind of grit and growth mindset needed to persevere in the face of challenges, to reinvent ourselves when the need arises, and to thrive in times of uncertainty. So, from the traditional academic setting, to training facilities, to on-the-job skill-building programs, providing avenues for young people to develop their creativity, and a host of other life skills like stress management, effective communication, and the ability to work on a team, will be critical.

The future is always uncertain, but young people are always up to the challenge. We see evidence of their innate agency all around us as young people are standing up for what they believe, making their voices heard, and taking action to make real change in the world.

Perhaps the most important thing we should tell young people about the future is that we are listening, we hear them, and we are ready to equip and support them to create a future they want, and a future the world needs.