Common sense dictates that the earlier young people are exposed to the tools and resources needed to start setting personal goals and planning for careers, the better equipped they’ll be to reach those goals. But, sadly that’s not often the case.

IYF’s experience over 25 years—in countries as diverse as Jordan and Saint Lucia—points to the importance of equipping underserved youth with quality career guidance services. A case in point is IYF’s work through the USAID-funded Youth Entrepreneurship Development (YED) program, which set out to transform the delivery of career guidance at the secondary school and university levels in Palestine. At the secondary level, efforts focused on providing in-class lessons, Tamheed psychometric assessments, in-school presentations by employers and entrepreneurs, and job shadowing. Within universities, YED supported the training of career guidance counselors to deliver comprehensive employability services, including student self-assessments and the delivery of life skills, internships, and entrepreneurship training.

Critical to YED’s efforts was working in partnership with the Ministry of Labor and Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, and engaging local civil society organizations and the business community as part of the solution. Over four years, more than 9,900 students have taken advantage of improved services. YED also trained over 160 educational staff, which will benefit thousands more youth over the long term.

Says Abeer Abu Gheith, Career Guidance Counselor at Palestine Polytechnic University, “We’ve seen grades improve and fields of study change for students. Graduates get jobs or start internships.”

As IYF’s experience in Palestine illustrates, a strong career guidance program can help youth better understand themselves, choose jobs that relate to their skills and interests, and obtain additional training in relevant areas. The end result? Informed, inspired, and qualified youth who confidently pursue a career of their choosing.

As youth unemployment and underemployment continue to grow, so does the need to invest in youth career guidance services that prioritize youth ownership of the process and offer young people the right tools, training, and information. Toward this end, IYF has created an adaptable set of tools, lesson plans, and resources called My Career, My Future, which gives communities the know-how to lead their at-risk youth into the job market.

IYF recognizes the career guidance field is nascent to non-existent in many countries. In response, it continues to develop and adapt tools and training resources designed to build local capacity so that youth receive the support they need in making life-shaping decisions.