As active conflict in eastern Ukraine continues, young people remain vulnerable to divisive rhetoric, hostile and over-simplified narratives, and recruitment by far-right radical groups. The perceived slow pace of reforms and the lack of meaningful civic, political, and economic opportunities have led many Ukrainians, but disproportionately its youth, to disconnect or emigrate. In the 2019 Presidential elections, only 40 percent of Ukrainians 18-29 years old exercised their right to vote. If Ukraine does not foster vested ownership among young people in the country’s future, it will lose them.
The UNITY activity will foster vested ownership among young people in Ukraine’s democratic, European future by further mobilizing youth leadership of a values-based conception of Ukrainian identity grounded in innovation, engagement, and pluralism. Making Cents International will support IREX in achieving this goal through youth innovation, entrepreneurship, and career preparedness that expands economic opportunities; broadened youth engagement in civic and community problem-solving; Ukraine’s pluralism and respect for diversity driven by young people; and research and learning on youth-related data, trends, and approaches that inform youth policy and programming.
Making Cents’ local team and HQ experts will apply their technical leadership to several program areas. We will focus on supporting entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship among youth, including through an entrepreneurship training curriculum, seed funding, competitions, incubators, and social entrepreneurship festivals that will connect young entrepreneurs from across Ukraine. We will also customize our Demand-Driven Training Toolkit and lead private-sector engagement strategy that would center on getting private-sector input to hard skills training; building capacity of private-sector organizations to employ more, and more vulnerable, youth; and building the capacity of local job placement entities, as appropriate. In addition, we will provide technical input to a soft skills curriculum to be implemented across program activities and transferred to/ultimately owned by local organizations.
To support learning under the project, Making Cents will also provide technical expertise to research activities by ensuring that the activities are innovative and creative, engage youth in leadership roles in research, and build youth and youth-serving organizations’ research capabilities.
Many young people in Ukraine struggle to find their first jobs, lack access to information on promising careers, and do not have the skills employers need. Contextually, migration is causing a dearth in skilled young labor, COVID-19 is causing an economic downturn, and discriminatory practices continue to cause inclusion issues in the labor market.
Within this context, in Spring 2021 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) UNITY program conducted a labor market landscape and found that young people aged 30–34 are the most economically active at 83.3 percent, with those aged 25–29 following closely behind at 79.6 percent. Ukrainian youth aged 15–24 show a lower level of economic activity (33.7 percent). This low rate in the youngest cohort is mainly due to their high level of engagement in education (84.1 percent), postponing their entry into the labor market.