FEATURE STORY

New Opportunities for Urban Youth in Papua New Guinea

August 20, 2013

The Urban Youth Employment Project provides new opportunities for youth and is helping them feel they can better integrate and make a difference in the societies. View the slideshow

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Pacific region experiences high youth unemployment and under employment, with estimates reaching up to 70 or 80 percent.
  • A project is helping youth in Port Moresby with income from temporary employment and training courses to increase their chances of getting jobs.
  • Over 3,000 youth have been enrolled in the project with several obtaining permanent jobs.

In a graduation ceremony earlier this month, 33 of the first 150 youth enrolled in a 5 month on-the-job training apprenticeship scheme received completion certificates from the World Bank-assisted Urban Youth Employment Project. Additional graduation ceremonies are being planned throughout the year as youth trainees complete their apprenticeships on a rolling basis.

The project is helping youth from disadvantaged areas in the country’s capital, Port Moresby, who have been out of work and school for at least 6 months. For most of these young people, the project is a valuable opportunity to obtain their first job experience. It also provides them with income from short term employment, an introduction to the formal banking system and the knowledge and skills to increase their chances of securing a job.

Ronnie Pala is among the recent batch of graduates. Before joining the project he had nothing to do and admitted, out of boredom and frustration, that he would do things like throw stones at passing cars just to pass the time.

“My family laughed at me and said I wouldn’t get anywhere with the project. But now I’m happy the project has helped me get new skills. After completing five months of on-the-job training, my employer offered me a permanent job,” said Ronnie.

Open Quotes

My family laughed at me and said I wouldn’t get anywhere with the project. But now I’m happy the project has helped me get new skills. After completing five months of on-the-job training, my employer offered me a permanent job Close Quotes

Ronnie Pala
Urban Youth Employment Project graduate

Education and skills gap in the Pacific

Currently, the Pacific region experiences high youth unemployment and under employment, with estimates reaching up to 70 or 80 percent. Perhaps most troubling, studies indicate that an increasing number of urban youth in the Pacific are being marginalized. They endure inequality, exclusion and poverty and are vulnerable to engaging in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse and involvement in crime and violence.

Many young people feel shut off from the jobs market. It is not simply that the jobs are not there. Employers report that they cannot fill available positions as candidates youth lack basic skills to engage in formal employment or have never had the opportunity to get work experience or training.

In Papua New Guinea, just a tiny fraction of the population have completed secondary school, with slightly higher figures for urban groups. Youth are therefore ill-equipped with the basic skills that are required to be productive and have limited pathways from school to work.

Providing a second chance for youth in Port Moresby

The World Bank has been working with the Government of Papua New Guinea to help provide young people with training, work experience and a stipend to help them overcome some of these constraints. The project’s basic skills and employment training as well as job intermediary services provides positive examples of services that may better enable Pacific youth to transition from school to work.

With the project scaling up of implementation, 3,000 applicants have been screened to participate in the program. When the project ends in 2016, it is expected that the project will benefit 10,500 disadvantaged, unemployed youth from the National Capital District area, with basic life skills for employment training, public works job placement and apprenticeships with various employers that are supporting the project.

About 30 of the most prominent business houses, hotel chains, manufacturers and construction companies as well as development organizations have active youth placements and the project expects this number to continue to grow.

Many young people hope that these types of initiatives will help increase their experience and knowledge of the workplace, employability, and make it easier for them to contribute to their families and communities.

“This was an opportunity for youth who are being given a second chance in life,” said Ruth, 24, who participated in recent training courses under the project.

It is also helping young people feel they can better integrate and make a difference in society. “We are hopeful that the skills and training will help us become good citizens,” said Joshua, 24.

Helping expand opportunities for young people remains a priority for the World Bank in the Pacific. The aim is to ensure youth can contribute to shaping their communities as well as being safer, happier and fulfilled so they can build positive, brighter Pacific futures.