Youth unemployment is an acute problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, and especially in countries that have recently experienced crisis or conflict. Researchers are working with the government of Côte d'Ivoire to evaluate the impact of a public apprenticeship program on access to apprenticeships, youth employment, and skills.
Youth unemployment is an acute problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, where young people account for 60 percent of the unemployed, and 72 percent of youth between the ages of 15 and 24 live on $2 a day or less. A lack of necessary skills is often cited as contributing to high unemployment. Informal apprenticeships, through which youth are given on-the-job vocational training, are a common form of skills training available for young adults, and many governments are attempting to introduce public provision or subsidies for more formal apprenticeship opportunities. However, thus far, there is limited evidence on the effectiveness of these apprenticeship schemes in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, little is known about how best to design formal apprenticeships. To address these evidence gaps, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation of a publicly subsidized apprenticeship program in Côte d'Ivoire.
After a decade of political instability and violence, in 2010, Côte d’Ivoire experienced a post-election crisis that led to a short-lived civil war in the country with severe negative impacts on the economy. In the aftermath of the violence, young people, many of whom had been active in the conflict, faced limited job opportunities. To address these high levels of youth unemployment, the government’s employment office introduced the Youth Employment and Skills Development Project (PEJEDEC) in 2011. The program includes various components with two overarching objectives: to provide temporary employment opportunities through highly labor-intensive public works projects; and to improve the employability of young people by offering apprenticeships, professional internships, and entrepreneurship and vocational trainings to 15,000 youths across the country. This evaluation focuses on the apprenticeship aspect of the program.
In partnership with PEJEDEC and the World Bank, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to measure the effects of PEJEDEC’s publicly subsidized formal apprenticeship program on skills acquisition and employment outcomes for youth in Côte d'Ivoire. The apprenticeship program targets low-skilled youths, aged 18 to 24 years old, in the main urban areas of the country. Both eligible firms2 and youth3 were randomly assigned to participate in the program. Out of 733 companies that applied to PEJEDEC, half were randomly assigned to participate in the program to offer apprenticeships. The other half of firms were assigned to the comparison group and did not participate in the program. Of 1,841 eligible youth who participated in the study, half were randomly assigned to the apprenticeship program and matched to apprenticeship positions at the firms, while the other half formed a comparison group and did not receive an apprenticeship position.
Apprenticeships will last one to two years in sectors such as construction, mechanics, textiles, and electronics. During their apprenticeships, youth will receive a package of tools for the job, as well as a monthly allowance of 30,000 West African CFA Francs (approximately US$60) provided by PEJEDEC. In addition to practical on-the-job training within the apprenticeship, youth will also participate in 180 hours of complementary training per year, and receive one-on-one advice from apprenticeship counsellors. At the end of the apprenticeship, each youth will be tested on their practical skills and theoretical knowledge of the job. Each firm will train up to three apprentices at any given time, and will receive additional training on how to effectively operate an apprenticeship program. Firms will also receive non-monetary recognition, in the form of certification as a “training company”, if their apprentices pass the final test.
Researchers will follow up with all study participants to measure learning and skills development among youth in the apprenticeship program, as well as subsequent employment rates and integration into the labor force. The results of this research may help inform the design of the national apprenticeship system, and future public investment in formal apprenticeships in Côte d’Ivoire.
[Note: IPA is collecting endline data only for this evaluation.]
Project on-going; results forthcoming.