“I love restaurants,” says 20-year-old Iyad, who grew up in the city of Irbid, 70 kilometers north of Amman, Jordan. “I always wanted to study in the hospitality industry, but I didn’t have the opportunity,” adds the youth, who often borrowed his mother’s recipe books to make desserts for friends.

His chance to gain new skills came in early 2014 when Iyad was accepted to the Hospitality and Services Training offered through Youth for the Future (Y4F). A program of the International Youth Foundation (IYF) carried out in partnership with the US Agency for International Development and the Government of Jordan, Y4F seeks to improve services for youth who are out-of-school, unemployed, and lack opportunity.

To date, more than 740 youth throughout the country have completed the hospitality training, which is being carried out in collaboration with the Jordan Applied University College of Hospitality and Tourism Education.

While enrolled in the three-month program—which included instruction in essential life skills, kitchen operations, room service, basic English, and customer service—Iyad formed an inseparable bond with two other trainees from Irbid: Adham, age 21, and Mahmoud, age 19. For a variety of reasons—financial challenges, family issues, failure to pass the Tawjihi—each was unable to pursue their educations beyond secondary school.

For all three, the hospitality training opened a door to a second chance. While Ayad enjoyed studying cooking most, for Adham the greatest benefit of the training was the Passport to Success® (PTS) life skills workshops which covered topics such as effective communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and goal setting.

“The PTS training changed me,” says Adham. “I used to be very stubborn. Even a minor argument could put an end to a friendship. Now, I know how to deal with disagreements. PTS also changed the way I handle others, including my father. We didn’t get along before; now we talk two to three times a day.”

Today, all three youth have secured jobs at KFC in Amman, thanks to job placement assistance offered through Y4F, which organized interviews for the trainees at Americana, the parent company of KFC and other popular restaurant chains including Pizza Hut, Hardee’s, and TGI Friday’s.

Adham, Mahmoud, and Iyad have started a new life with each living in accommodations provided by Americana for its employees. All three feel a responsibility to become financially independent and some day help support their families.

Says Iyad, “I want to obtain a university degree so I can become a five-star hotel manager.” Now staying late at work to learn new tasks in hopes of a promotion, Iyad recognizes that step-by-step, day-by-day he’s moving closer to achieving his goal.