In 2008, in partnership with USAID, IYF launched the Caribbean Youth Empowerment Program (CYEP) to provide young people with positive youth development opportunities across the region. Initially a two-year, US$1.5 million program in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Jamaica, by 2011, it had grown into a five-year, US$5 million initiative with programming expanded into Saint Lucia.
CYEP offered vulnerable youth aged 17–25 a second chance to gain the life skills and technical knowledge they needed to enter the job market. As CYEP participants, young men and women learned to build their resilience and bounce back from hardship by training for local jobs, starting micro-enterprises, and developing skills that enabled them to fulfill their dreams of playing productive roles in their communities. CYEP offered three tracks—vocational, entrepreneurship and career guidance—through 13 projects. Youth on the vocational track trained for entry-level jobs in specific vocations, such as computer maintenance and networking, fiberglass (boat) repair, construction, culinary arts, and tourism. The trainees were also provided with internships, enhancing their employability through on-the-job experience, and job placement services. Other youth explored self-employment through the entrepreneurship track, which equipped them with the skills to initiate and manage their own micro-enterprises. They learned how to develop successful business plans and identify resources for financing, and they received business support to operate and grow their enterprises. All youth in these two tracks received life skills, ICT training, remedial education, and psychosocial counseling. Other support services, such as assistance with child care and transportation, aimed to remove barriers to program completion. Youth who enrolled in the career guidance project were led to explore their interests, talents, and dreams. They received life skills and information about local job markets and viable opportunities to earn their livelihoods. They also learned how to plan for the future and develop a career plan, including any education or training they would need to qualify for their chosen careers.
“We know there’s a strong link between security and economic growth and expanding employment opportunities for young people. By offering an integrated approach to job training to those most in need and working closely with the business community, programs like CYEP can have an enormously positive impact on the stability and vitality of vulnerable communities.”
—Alexandria Huerta, Acting Mission Director USAID/Barbados and Eastern Caribbean.
In all, 2,644 young men and women enrolled in the CYEP program, and 1,992 graduated. CYEP successfully targeted youth at risk—at baseline, 85 percent of beneficiaries were unemployed or inactive; 91 percent were identified as poor or extremely poor; 40 percent had less than a secondary education and; 49 percent had completed secondary school but lacked the qualifications to continue their education or apply entry level jobs. The program also reached near gender parity. In Saint Lucia, CYEP piloted and then expanded a vocational training program tailored to reach young people in conflict with the law, some of whom needed to find jobs and rebuild their lives following incarceration.
While preparing young people for sustainable employment remained the primary focus, CYEP also aimed to develop the capacity of partner organizations to deliver quality services to vulnerable youth, as well as to facilitate the development of strong networks among youth-serving organizations and their public- and private-sector partners. Partners made important connections with private employers and strengthened their collaboration with government entities and other stakeholders.
Additionally, IYF developed several case studies and learning tools from the CYEP experience:
- Career Guidance: Preparing Youth for Work in the 21st Century
- Consortium Building
- Preparing Youth in Conflict with the Law for Success
- Employer Outreach Toolkit
More than 490 companies offered program graduates mentoring, internships, and jobs, and 94 percent of companies hiring interns and employees after CYEP reported satisfaction.
For detailed information on results, lessons learned, and recommendations, read the CYEP Final Report.
To read an update from a CYEP graduate, visit, The Call Every Program Manager Hopes to Get on our blog.
For more information about IYF programming in Latin America & the Caribbean, contact Jorge Barragan, Business Development Manager.