At the Heart of Everything


The years 2020 and 2021 have felt unlike any other time in recent history.

Globally, COVID-19 has disrupted our health and wellbeing, the ways we learn, how we earn our livings, and the ways we live our daily lives. Social distancing and other necessary lock down measures made it difficult to come together—physically at least—and pushed us to find new ways of staying connected. In the United States, numerous social injustices like the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor began a reckoning with systemic racism which spurred global action.

Not surprisingly, young people are at the heart of everything, rising to face these unprecedented challenges with strength, determination, and empathy. I was personally inspired by stories of a new generation taking on added responsibilities at home, keeping their dreams on track by embracing innovative learning and training models, addressing urgent issues in their own communities, and raising their voices at protests and across social media. As always, young people are leading the way with action.

But they need our support.

When IYF says we are in the business of “Transforming lives, together,” it’s more than just a tagline. It’s how we deliver on our mission of equipping young people to thrive in work, society, and life. It’s why we partner with forward-thinking corporations, foundations, governments, and communities around the world to power our work, why we trust the expertise of local institutions and practitioners who understand their contexts best, and why we value the bold, innovative perspectives of young change makers like Glory (23), pictured above, who is honing her leadership skills in the Tanzanian tourism industry.

In this, IYF’s first Impact Report, we’re highlighting multiple aspects of impact through the voices of those who make it happen—local partners, the IYF team around the globe, and of course young people themselves. I hope you’ll be inspired to join us, too.

Afterall, the best thing about “Transforming lives, together” is that there’s always room for one more.

Susan Reichle
President & CEO

The Voices of Youth Engagement

Equipping young people with resources, opportunities, and support is what youth-serving organizations like IYF do, but the work must involve engaging young people as equal partners, powerful allies, and essential contributors.

We design and implement our programs to be by, for, and with young people. That means recognizing and respecting the young people we serve as active participant-partners whose voices and input matter. The Youth Opportunity (YO) program, supported by McDonald’s, has been advancing this vision through a hands-on, dynamic approach to youth engagement.

  • 11,556 Young people served through the Youth Opportunity initiative
  • 65% Black
  • 25% Hispanic or Latinx
  • 63% Women
  • 72% hired or enrolled in education after training

As part of IYF’s YO program, up to two young people from each community-based organization can become YO Ambassadors. Importantly, this is a paid position—young people receive a stipend of $500 for the 5-month role. In addition, ambassadors gain the opportunity to network with peers and experts from various fields, build their resumes, and work with professionals to develop skills in areas such as writing and public speaking. Ambassadors frequently collaborate with YO program and communications teams from McDonald’s and IYF to develop diverse multimedia content such as blog posts and videos like “Letters to my younger self,” in which ambassadors reflect on how far they've come and where they want to go. Their perspectives, ideas, and opinions matter, and we are proud to provide a platform to elevate their voices.

Recently, we checked in with the current cohort of ambassadors from Washington, DC and Chicago. We asked them about their experience as ambassadors—their goals, accomplishments, feedback, and advice to future ambassadors. Here’s what they said:

What were your goals as a Youth Opportunity Ambassador?

Vianey: As a Youth Opportunity Ambassador, my personal goal was to stand out and speak up about my thoughts. To stop being shy.

JP: As a YO ambassador, I wanted to take the opportunity to connect better with others in the program, contribute more to the cohort, and push myself into experiences that would help me grow.

Victoria: I enjoy being an active member of my community. As a YO Ambassador, I contributed to the mission of a social-impact initiative by sharing with others, learning, and improving our leadership skills together.

Describe your experience—what was rewarding, challenging, or surprising?

Vianey: At first, what was challenging for me was when I took the role of being a leader on LinkedIn and posting ideas for other YO Ambassadors. I thought it was going to be hard to post on LinkedIn—but in reality, it wasn’t. I enjoyed posting my thoughts and creative ideas for other YO Ambassadors to see.

JP: First, you get to learn some of the things that companies like McDonalds do to help their employees grow professionally, but also it allows the ambassador to try new opportunities and do things they haven't done before like creating content posts on LinkedIn.

Victoria: It has been great to be part of this amazing initiative because it has pushed me to improve myself and discover that I can be a change agent in my community. Public speaking is always challenging for me, but I am working on improving it. The YO program has been the best place to face it.

What would you say to another young person thinking of becoming a YO Ambassador?

Vianey: Go for it! Being a YO Ambassador is fun and you learn a lot about what you want to be in the future. There are job opportunities open for you. You also feel like a leader.

JP: I would say that this is a great opportunity for youth who are just now entering the workforce. They are the ones that can benefit the most, but even if you have experience you can use the opportunity to sharpen the skills you already have.

Victoria: If you have the opportunity, do not hesitate to be part of the YO program because this youth-oriented project is a space of learning and professional development where you will always feel welcome and confident to share your thoughts and perspective.

We are fortunate to work with partners, like Monica Tijerina, Senior Director, Community Impact & Philanthropy at McDonald’s, who share this commitment to youth engagement.

When we engage young people as active participant-partners—not just passive beneficiaries—amazing things happen. Not only do they develop the skills needed to secure the jobs they want, but they also discover their innate potential to drive change and create a better world for us all. After serving as ambassadors, 100 percent of respondents say they participate in political or social causes to improve their community—compared to 70 percent before becoming ambassadors.

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The Faces of Systems Change

In Tanzania and Mozambique, over half a million young people every year go through the nations’ technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems, enrolling in TVET institutions and training centers to gain the skills they need to get the jobs they want.

Together with our local TVET and government partners, and in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, IYF’s Via: Pathways to Work program equipped over 22,000 young people with work readiness life skills, career guidance, and entrepreneurship training. Over time, program participants were more likely to secure permanent employment, earn increased income, and report increased satisfaction with their careers. Moreover, their employers were excited and impressed by the preparedness and confidence of the young Via graduates they hired.

  • Percentage of youth working more than doubled 26%-65%
  • In Mozambique, wages increased by more than 35%
  • Percentage of youth with a wage (as opposed to self-employment) more than doubled 24%-60%
  • Those with a permanent contract grew from 14%-36%
  • Those with earnings sufficient to support themselves grew from 17%-32%
  • 76% of Via graduates reported improved life skills
  • 90% had positive self-confidence
  • 60% had an increase in positive belief in the future
  • In Tanzania, TVET Centers' capacity assessment scores increased by an average of 52%

“I am not only the only female in my workplace, but I’m also the youngest employee. Having the right skills to develop confidence in myself led the boss to have confidence in me.”

—Asha, 24

“I enjoy working at a company that contributes towards positive environmental outcomes. My life skills training increased my confidence in my ability to learn a new technical skill.”

—Mohammed, 26

In 2021, the Via program officially concluded. While we’re proud of the many success stories and impact numbers that have emerged from Via during the last six years, we know that because we adopted a systems-change approach the impact will stretch far into the future.

“I currently make a lot of decisions at my workplace. My life skill set has enabled me to make choices with positive consequences for the company.”

—Glory, 23

“I learnt how to negotiate, solve problems and apply creative thinking at my company.”

—Amon, 29

With Via, our systems change approach began by identifying the right levers of change in the TVET system, then bringing together the relevant actors in the ecosystem—government officials, school administrators and teachers, curriculum decision-makers, employers, and students themselves—to facilitate those changes and establish norms and networks to continue developing solutions.

“The changes adopted through Via will be permanent because we now have point people for skills training in place and standardized curricula.”

—Leonidas Mushobozi, Registrar, VETA DODOMA

Throughout the program, we strengthened the capacity of 500 staff members from 30 partner organizations in ways that improved their responsiveness to the needs of young people. For example, we equipped trainers to apply student-centered pedagogy in the classroom, deliver career guidance and job placement support services, and utilize monitoring and evaluation activities to better understand gaps and opportunities.

“Via: Pathways to Work supported the government’s Development Strategy to reform the TVET sector and meet the skills requirements of a growing economy. The curriculum has now been developed further within the TVET system.”


As these changes take root, the number of young people benefitting from a more inclusive, youth-responsive system will continue to increase even after the program ends.

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Next Level Program Innovations

In just the last few years, global smartphone usage and access to the internet have increased rapidly. Recognizing that young people live, work, learn, and play in an increasingly digital world, IYF invests in the development of leading-edge digital programming to meet today’s young people where they are—and to help them get where they want to go.

Our digital platforms and offerings have become more relevant than ever before since the COVID-19 pandemic when IYF needed to find ways to ensure traditionally in-person and hybrid programming could continue during necessary lockdown measures. Thankfully, we had 10+ years of digital programming experience to draw from, and our program teams effectively and efficiently pivoted towards virtual modes of delivering the skills, tools, and support young people need to thrive in work and life.

Young people regularly engage with IYF through online training platforms and openly accessible resources. Notably, IYF delivers our Passport to Success® life skills program to learners over video conference platforms (Zoom, Google Classroom) and chat apps like WhatsApp. In both cases, program content is deliberately tailored for each specific experience. Beyond eLearning, our digital engagements also extend into behavior change communication, data analysis, youth-centered design, and online community building. We also equip our implementing partners, such as local NGOs and training institutions, with the digital tools and best practices they need to be successful. From delivering training through YouTube videos in Palestine and India, to fully remote live classes in the US and Mexico, IYF draws on varied offerings to ensure the best possible experience and learning outcomes for our participants.

Two Award-Winning Digital Life Skills Courses: Passport to Success Traveler & Passport to Success Concierge

PTS Traveler, our free, online, game-based life skills course launched in January 2020. Together with our partners at the PepsiCo Foundation, we adapted Traveler from over 45 hours of in-person PTS lessons to take young people on a virtual tour of the world—and the job market. While learning in-demand life skills, they get to explore jobs in growth industries. To meet young people where they are, Traveler was developed for easy use on smartphones and was built to be “gender smart,” taking into consideration and meeting the different needs of different genders.

During development of the course, we conducted tests with more than 1,000 young people across eight countries to ensure it was relevant, user-friendly, and engaging. According to the 2020 results from two validated measurement instruments–IYF’s Life Skills Survey Tool (LiSST) and ACT’s Tessera Workforce assessment—84 students in Mexico who completed all modules of PTS Traveler saw a 31 percent improvement across a range of life skills directly linked to career-readiness.

In December 2020, we were awarded a Brandon Hall Group Gold Medal for Best Advance in Social Impact Innovation. In 2021, PTS Traveler also won an mEducation Alliance Award in the Youth and Workforce Development category.

PTS Concierge, our free, highly interactive, online life skills course tailored to the hospitality and tourism industry launched in August 2021. In 2019, travel and tourism accounted for 25 percent of all net jobs in the world and was predicted to create 80 million new jobs in the next decade. The hospitality industry is one of the biggest employers of young people from all educational backgrounds, and it’s set to hire at unprecedented rates following the pandemic.

Building on IYF’s Passport to Success (PTS) for Hospitality course’s outstanding impact on retention, performance, and promotion rates at Hilton, the Hilton Effect Foundation invested in IYF to create PTS Concierge. Now, young people anywhere can access an expanded version of this course, learn about hospitality and tourism, and gain the skills to be successful.

In August 2021, PTS Concierge was awarded a Brandon Hall Group Gold Medal for Best Advance in Competencies and Skill Development. The course was also quick to gain support from the American Hotel and Lodging Foundation and the Global Travel and Tourism Partnership (GTTP). Moving forward, IYF will be creating more exciting partnerships to help young people into great careers.

  • 53,000 young learners from around the world have accessed IYF’s online learning platform
  • 4 million+ Chinese users watched The Big Three—an animated “webisode” series adapted from Passport to Success.
  • 5 million+ people in Latin America and India viewed IYF’s multilingual life skills content on YouTube
    Eighty percent of the viewers were young women.
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Local Leadership for Maximum Impact

Meaningful, lasting impact can’t be achieved without the deep expertise, dedication, and empathy of IYF’s local teams. With extensive professional experience, and an unparalleled understanding of local contexts, our country teams are the engine that drives our work to realize a world where young people are inspired and equipped to create the future they want.

During Covid-19, our program teams around the world faced unprecedented challenges. For example, IYF’s team in Mexico had to find a way to safely and responsibly keep traditionally face-to-face IT support training and certification alive during lockdown. “When the pandemic hit,” recalls Katia Moreno, IYF Program Manager, "we had two groups finishing their first week of training, and two other groups just beginning. We knew we had to move quickly.” Below, the IYF Mexico Team explains what makes their Google-supported program so impactful, why gender equity is central to the program’s design and implementation, and how their innovative methodology not only kept participants on track during Covid, but also led to outstanding geographic coverage growth and an 83 percent job placement rate.

  • 90% of participants complete the program
  • 83% job placement rate
  • 49% average increase in income
  • 43% of participants are women (sector average is 17%)

Covid has made program implementation really challenging. What impact has the Google Mexico program had so far?

Ana Salinas, Program Assistant: Ninety percent of our 1,123 participants are completing the program, prepared and excited for a great first job in IT. That sets us apart from other programs.

Katia Moreno, Program Manager: Yes, and to add to that our career guidance services have helped lead to an 83 percent job placement rate and an average income growth of 49.5 percent. Young people are not only being equipped with skills—they’re taking the next step by securing good jobs

Nicole Zamorano, Program Coordinator: Traditionally, IT courses only have 17 percent enrollment by women. But our course has more than double—43 percent of enrolled participants and 41 percent of graduates are women. I think this is because both the Google and IYF teams are driven by strong young women. We’re very proud of that!

Alberto Peniche, Country Director: Yes, that’s so true. Because the process is directed by talented young women, we can attract girls and young women who see themselves reflected in the program. They think, I’m not the only girl in the room, I can do this. That’s a powerful thing.

What characteristics and features distinguish the Google Mexico program from similar IT certificate courses—how is it unique, innovative, and impactful?

Ana: It’s a challenging course—there’s a lot of ground to cover, and it requires an investment of time. That’s why it’s important to support our students with some great wrap around services. For example, many participants and their families don’t have the money to pay for an internet connection. We provide them with a $250 stipend to help with that so they can better focus on completing the certificate. We also provide work readiness workshops with a professional consultant because even if students are prepared professionally and technically, they may not be sure how to approach an employer, or where to look for a job. This extra support makes a real impact for our participants.

Katia: Nicole, Ana, and I have a lot of direct contact with our participants. Sometimes, we have 150+ students, but we still learn everyone’s name and message them often. This helps with their confidence, makes them comfortable, and keeps them on track to complete the program. In addition to technical content, we include fun activities to help participants bond with each other. We’ve found this helps a lot with retention. Our trainers and coaches also do a great job not only delivering content but supporting and listening to the students.

Nicole: Flexibility is something that makes the program very special. To complete the certificate, participants commit to six hours every day, but they can work at their own rhythm according to when they are available during the day. Also, we take a flexible, youth-led approach to our design. For example, we started out with an eight-week pilot program, but through student feedback we figured out we needed to extend the length of the program to 10 weeks. We also added activities that participants told us would help support the content. So, the program reflects their needs.

Alberto: We make sure our trainers and tutors are empowered to adjust according to the needs of each specific cohort they’re teaching. Passport to Success—IYF’s award-winning life skills courses that participants attend before they begin technical training—provides trainers an arena to observe how participants are performing so they can decide where to put extra emphasis, extra time, and extra attention to ensure everyone is successful. This has been especially important during Covid when participants have needed to work remotely. We’ve heard this on course evaluations—the course was well-designed, the material was great, but PTS really stood out as critical to success.

Jorge Barragan, Regional Director: One of the design innovations of this program is its intentional sequence of elements. Reading and comprehension come first to make sure participants can self-manage learning. Then, before getting to anything technical, the curriculum focuses on life skills and career guidance, so participants better understand the purpose, value, and return on investment of what they’ll learn. And finally, the technical part. Another innovation is how we contract our facilitators. Before they can teach, they must master the content themselves by completing the certificate. They also need to be certified in Passport to Success, so they know how to approach and teach young people. Finally, we don’t contract our teachers only to teach, but to make sure learners will be successful. We incentivize this with a success-based bonus system. All these little backend design elements make a real difference.

To build on this success, IYF’s Mexico team plans to lean into the effort to empower young women through technology. In fact, the team is working on a new 18-month initiative aimed at creating economic opportunity for 750 young women in Mexico’s IT sector.

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Strong Ecosystems for Sustainable Impact

In South Africa, the automotive manufacturing industry is poised for tremendous growth—currently, Toyota, VW, BMW, Ford, Mercedez-Benz, Nissan, Isuzu, and Mahindra all have production facilities in the country, and there are approximately 200 component manufacturers ready to meet their needs. To capitalize on this potential, the country’s Automotive Masterplan is geared towards doubling employment in the sector by 2035—a lofty goal, one that will require skilled young people to fill critical open positions in order to be reached.

This is good news, especially as South Africa finds itself facing a youth unemployment crisis, but not without challenges. An obstacle on the road to filling those open positions—and capitalizing on the potential for industry growth—is a misalignment between the skills young people possess, and the skills that employers demand. To address this challenge, the High Gear initiative funded by USAID, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and the UK Government’s Skills for Prosperity program, takes an “ecosystem” approach. When multiple actors from the public and private sectors—including training institutions, employers, and automotive industry organizations—collaborate, the result is a sustainable, scalable initiative that, going forward, will be owned and led by South African industry and government partners.

Below, Shivani Singh—Commercial Director of the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (NAACAM)—and Beth Dealtry—NAACAM Analyst—provide insight into the impact of High Gear.

What makes the High Gear initiative unique—for example, how is it different in terms of approach, outcome, and impact in South Africa’s skills development system?

Shivani: A critical point of departure for High Gear is its industry-led, holistic approach to skills development across a multistakeholder landscape, with the active commitment of the private and public sector, as well as training institutions. We have not seen an initiative of this nature and scale previously in the South African industrial economic development environment. Unlike previous initiatives in the skills ecosystem, we believe that High Gear is well-placed to develop and nurture a robust pipeline of technical skills which are in dire need in the sector. The South African Automotive Masterplan 2035 seeks to build a globally competitive automotive sector. We anticipate that High Gear has all the vital elements to move the sector towards our 2035 ambitions.

In what ways do stakeholders (like employers and young people) and SA’s TVET system and automotive components manufacturing sector benefit?

Beth: Historically, automotive component suppliers have had to bear the full burden of identifying skills shortfalls and implementing initiatives to close these gaps. We believe that by providing a consolidated, industry-driven platform to support the technical skills development ecosystem, High Gear adds significant value to South African automotive component suppliers. High Gear also supports the development of skills across a young person’s career trajectory, for a meaningful lifelong career in the sector. By aligning critical technical skills to the sector’s requirements, we can ensure that the South African automotive sector is perfectly placed to compete with leading global automotive destinations and secure our position as an increasingly important manufacturing destination.

You mentioned there’s a close connection between industry growth, skills, and workforce transformation in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion—can you elaborate on that?

Shivani: South Africa has Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) legislation, which requires domestic companies to diversify their workforce by increasing the participation of people of color, women, youth, and people with disabilities. The automotive sector’s government incentive regime is closely linked to a company’s B-BBEE performance, so automotive component suppliers have a vested interest to ensure that their hiring, training, and development interventions promote greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. High Gear’s implementation plan is explicitly crafted to ensure that these designated groups are prioritized for support. For example, in recent years we have seen a distinct shift in the participation of women in technical roles within NAACAM member companies. Looking ahead, we hope to see High Gear consolidating and delivering even greater outcomes for women and youth in the sector.

How is NAACAM working with IYF and TVET colleges to enhance students’ skills and knowledge?

Beth: In October, our TVET college partners introduced High Gear-designed “lecturing demonstration kits” that are helping to bring engineering theory alive for students. To start, these kits are enabling 35 lecturers to demonstrate key mechanical engineering and electrical engineering concepts in their classrooms. These lecturers are also benefitting from High Gear-organized exposure to manufacturing workplaces, so they’re better able to share with their students the practical linkages between engineering concepts and industry application. Additionally, NAACAM is launching the online High Gear Career Experience Platform for TVET students that will feature (among other things) testimonials from young people employed in South Africa’s automotive manufacturing sector, games to build key industry competencies in a fun way, and links to a national job search platform for young people. Taken together, NAACAM is working to demonstrate both in South Africa and internationally the lead role that industry associations can play in building a stronger skills pipeline, to the benefit of both youth and employers.

Ultimately, High Gear aims to demonstrate a model for greater industry involvement in TVET course design and delivery that generates enthusiasm from TVET educators and the automotive industry, while also generating positive returns for young people and employers. “The High Gear initiative represents a real step towards our goal of doubling employment in the sector by 2035,” Shivai Singh explains. “The collaboration between all these various organizations is a massive win for the automotive industry—as well as employers and young South Africans.”

As we often say at IYF, the toughest challenges can’t be solved alone—only when we work together can we achieve meaningful, far-reaching, lasting impact.

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