Five Important Tips for any Youth Workforce Development Program

A Model From Turkey

By Gulcan Yayla

Youth unemployment is one of the most pressing issues in many countries around the world. A measure of youth inactivity is provided by OECD with an indicator called neither employed nor in education or training (NEET) population. Among 35 OECD countries, Turkey has the highest youth unemployment rate with nearly 30% of young people aged 15-29 being neither employed nor in education or training.

According to OECD, youth inactivity is a huge opportunity cost to the Turkish economy: 3.4% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lost every year, corresponding to around $25 billion! However, unemployment does not only affect the economy. This opportunity cost also has had a detrimental impact on social society. Apart from the macro-economic impact, another effect of youth inactivity is the increased risk of poverty amongst youth. Young people who are inactive are prone to becoming socially excluded, as they do not have the opportunity to connect with society through value-creation opportunities gained via access to the labor market. These social problems may cause further unexpected consequences, such as isolation, criminal activity and drug use.

However, every problem presents a potential for an innovative solution in the eyes of social entrepreneurs. Kodluyoruz (“We Code” in English | | exemplifies an innovative social enterprise founded to address the high youth unemployment problem in Turkey. LaunchCode ( inspired a group of young entrepreneurs from Turkey to start a similar organization in their country. Although Computer Science graduates face significant difficulties in finding jobs, The Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology stated that there is a need for around 70,000 coders in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector of Turkey. Moreover, 60% of the technology firms in Turkey state that their biggest problem is the lack of qualified talent. Kodluyoruz was started as a youth workforce development organization to close the skills gap in the technology sector. It aims to train 100 young people in its first year by organizing world-class, 3-month boot camps.

Becoming an effective workforce development organization requires paying attention to the best practices. Several studies have been conducted around the world to identify the key characteristics of promising youth workforce development programs.  Studies conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation, Public/Private Ventures, and Heartland Alliance, agree on the following five best practices to start an effective job trainings program:

  1. Effective programs target youth who can benefit from the program most.  Promising programs establish detailed intake processes, in which the interests, abilities, and qualifications of candidates are taken into consideration.  Instead of targeting jobseekers who can find jobs with the help of basic job search assistance, programs should identify youth who face higher barriers to finding employment and need a more intensive training program to succeed in labor market.
  2. The most successful programs are demand driven. Training curriculum within demand driven programs is designed with input from key industry employers. An effective sectoral strategy rests on a strong link with employers, resulting in a more concrete understanding of how the skills gained in trainings can meet the requirements of the labor market.
  3. Many programs implement a holistic approach to training, incorporating job readiness and life skills education along with ICT skills.  Several programs also provide entrepreneurship trainings, and many offer skills training relevant to the broader digital economy. Five key soft skills for youth workforce success are communication, self-control, positive self-concept, and higher-order thinking skills. 
  4. Post-training support.  Following training, many promising programs provide youth with internship and job placement services, as well as mentorship and career counseling. 
  5. Multi-stakeholder partnerships between the public and private sector are critical in order to scale and increase impact. Strong organizational capacity is needed to form partnerships and understand the specific needs of employers. 

In Kodluyoruz, we believe that every young person in Turkey should have access to the highest quality coding trainings. We employ the best practices as our guidelines to increase the coding and ICT skills of the youth in Turkey. We hope that other organizations around the world will also benefit from implementing these practices in their trainings!


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  • BloombergHT. (2015). Minister Fikri Isik: Turkey Needs 70 Thousand ICT Personnell [Bakan Fikri Işık: Türkiye'nin 70 bin bilişim uzmanına ihtiyacı var]. Retrieved from

  • Celik, K. (2008). 'My state is my father': Youth unemployment experiences under the weak state welfare provisions of Turkey. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(4), 429-444.

  • Jayaram, S., Hill, T., Plaut, D., & Burnett, N. (2013). Training Models for Employment in the Digital Economy. Washington, DC: Results for Development Institute, Rockefeller Foundation.

  • Lippman, L. H., Ryberg, R., Carney, R., & Moore, K. A. (2015). Key “Soft Skills” that Foster Youth Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends.

  • Maguire, S., Freely, J., Clymer, C., Conway, M., & Schwartz, D. (2010). Tuning in to Local Labor Markets: Findings from The Sectoral Employment Impact Study. New York, NY: Public/Private Ventures.

  • Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2016). Society at a Glance 2016, A Spotlight on Youth: How Does Turkey Compare? Paris, France: Author.

  • Warland, C., Applegate, D., Schnur, C., & Jones, J. (2015). Providing True Opportunity for Opportunity Youth: Promising Practices and Principles for Helping Youth Facing Barriers to Employment. Chicago, IL: Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity.

Gulcan Yayla is a recent MBA & MSW graduate from the Washington University in St. Louis, and a social entrepreneur working towards addressing high youth unemployment in Turkey.

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