Launch of employers' national network on youth initiative ( ENNYI)

By Mr Donglin Li, Director, ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Statement | Sri Lanka | 23 March 2016
Addressing the gathering, Donglin Li, Country Director, ILO Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives
• Honourable Minister of Labour and Trade Union Relations
• Honourable Minister of Higher Education
• Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Trade Union Relations
• Mr. Susantha Ratnayake- Chairman , EFC
• Mr. Suresh Shah- Vice chairman , EFC
• Mr Kanishka Weerasinghe, Director General, EFC
• Ms Chanadani Amaratunge, Commissioner General of Labour
• Members of international agencies, academic institutions, social partners, private sector and friends from the media

Very good morning to all of you. I am indeed honoured and privileged to be associated with the launch of this programme which is an initiative of the ILO’s “support to implement youth employment policies and coordinating for youth employment in Sri Lanka” Project.

It is indeed heartening to see such a high-level gathering of Ministers and senior officials and a wide range of stakeholders, taking time off their busy schedules to grace the event. This is a reflection of the commitment of the new government to promote employment opportunities and decent work for all in Sri Lanka. Youth unemployment remains a critical issue in Sri Lanka for policy makers, youth and their families. Unemployment rates in the age group 15-19 years remains close to 20% more than fourfold the one of adults, while young girls show rates higher than their male counterparts. In addition the rates of unemployed amongst individuals holding a tertiary education degree are close to 12%. Youth performance in the labour market remains dismal and worse than that of their adult counterparts. Department of Census and Statistics estimates indicate that unemployment is 17.2% for the 15-19 years old and 37.6% for the 20 to 24 years old (40% for young women).

Overall, it is evident that a smooth transition from education to the workforce is still problematic for most youth. The number of programmes offering a multidimensional support to young job seekers, especially including job search assistance for internal job market- is quite limited.

Productive and well-structured internships are recognized as an instrument to increase youth productivity and employability, facilitate the school to work transition and enhance the level of job readiness of young graduates. Moreover, they could allow young people to expand the level of knowledge of the working environment and of specific jobs, allowing for a more conscious choice of the future career path. The National Human Resources and Employment policy explicitly calls for expanded opportunities for industry to participate in the vocational training system and for “public-private partnership in provision of internships, on-the-job training”, where all students are provided an opportunity to acquire generic skills, life skills including soft skills and a positive work ethic which would facilitate a smooth school to work transition.

Meanwhile the National Youth Policy calls for “Enhance participation of youth in the economy” by crating the conditions for effective transition of youth from education to work and for enhancing the employment opportunities with fairness and equity. Government and private sector. The situation is evolving, with more and more institutions and sectors such as the construction sector, Manufacturing, service sector, BPO’s, law firms and private sector enterprises in general offering opportunities, notably for university or vocational training graduates. In order to provide more and equitable access to internship opportunities, the Employers Federation of Ceylon and ILO wish to collaborate with selected universities, to establish a structured internship scheme, building on efforts undertaken by a number of EFC members to increase the number and quality of learning opportunities available to Sri Lanka’s graduates within the “ILO Youth Employment project” that was implemented in 2015. Employers will be equally encouraged to take in more female youth whilst universities will be encouraged to aggressively promote registration of female graduates for these internships in order to bridge the gaps between male/female youth employment rates.

For both employers and students internships is a ‘win win” situation. For employers an internship program is the best way for them to build a pipeline of talented, young professionals. In addition to being a pipeline for hiring, interns fill positions and assist employers with innovative ideas and technology. The students gain an insider's view to a possible career path and networking opportunities. Above all, internships could lead to a full-time position for that company while it allows the young people to expand the level of knowledge of the working environment and of job specific skills, allowing for a more conscious choice of the future career path.

For the ILO, the promotion of job opportunities and decent work for young people is a central concern. The ILO has initiated programmes in Sri Lanka to support youth employment premised upon the four ‘E’s of employment, namely through promoting equality in access to decent work; strengthening the employability of youth to make the transition from school-to-work; building entrepreneurship skills for young people as a means to economic empowerment whilst working closely with employers towards employment creation for young persons by promotion of investment in sectors that generate jobs for youth.

The ILO is committed to working with the Government and its’ social partners in improving the quality and relevance of skills training programs to ensure that youth are equipped with the necessary skills and tools to make a smooth transition from school to ‘decent’ work.

Thank you