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Learning the secrets of youth employability: a visit to the Global YouthCan! Conference

thyssenkrupp Elevator launched Project SEED in Colombia and Brazil in late 2017 as part of YouthCan! – an initiative of SOS Children’s Villages. Two more countries were added in 2018 and a fifth in January 2019. As a result of this success, thyssenkrupp Elevator was honored to host the second annual Global YouthCan! Conference at its global headquarters in Essen, Germany.

The conference welcomed stakeholders from around the world: program managers and youth coordinators from SOS Children’s Villages, representatives of partner companies and – most importantly – four young YouthCan! participants. Conference attendees shared stories, statistics, best practices, critiques, and many laughs.

Getting started with practical skills

The first day of the conference was very much focused on the sharing of hard and soft skills among SOS Children’s Villages employees, who are or will become responsible for local YouthCan! programs. Various workshops provided information on starting up a new YouthCan! program, relationship management skills, and monitoring and reporting on results as well as information on how to use the new digital mentoring platform “YouthLinks.”

The main event: Reports from the field and a look ahead

In her keynote address, Sofia García García – SOS Children’s Villages representative to the United Nations – quoted the words of Antonio Machado: “…wanderer, there is no road; the road is made by walking.” These words perfectly summarize the path of YouthCan!, a young program that is forging a new path towards improving employability for young people who lack sufficient support from their families.

And they’re doing a great job of it. Some of the partner companies reported on the results they have had. DHL, for example, has trained young people as forklift drivers, several of whom soon landed new jobs. Allianz also discussed its successful trial of the YouthCan! virtual mentoring solution YouthLinks.

“Helping cities achieve a social balance is part of our mission to make cities the best places to live.”

Luis Ramos
Head of Communications, thyssenkrupp Elevator

Human Social Responsibility can be a perfect match

Luis Ramos provided an update on thyssenkrupp Elevator’s Project SEED and discussed how the YouthCan! initiative was simply a perfect fit for the company. He explained that the company had been looking for a program in which the employees could contribute their skills in a concrete way – something that also contributes to employees’ spirit of engagement.

According to Luis: “When you’re in a team, you need to help others and you need to know how to connect. YouthCan! has been better than any internal training program that we could have dreamed of in terms of learning the personal benefits of helping others – and the volunteers love it.”

It’s all about the kids

Arguably, the most important attendees at the conference were four young alumni of YouthCan! programs in Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia. They displayed incredible potential as public speakers as they shared personal success stories and experiences with their local YouthCan! programs.

The day ended with an interactive session geared towards finding new ideas and encouraging suggestions to improve the program as well as an open panel discussion. The panel, which included one of the young alumni, pledged to work harder at better involving young people in the planning and monitoring of YouthCan! After all, the idea for YouthCan! came from young people at an international gathering of youth from SOS Children’s Villages.

“The program encouraged me to be my own boss and run my own business so that I can be as good as any big entrepreneur by myself.”

Project SEED/YouthCan! participant in Brazil

Wrapping it up

Although the third day came to an earlier end, it was still a very important one. This was the day in which representatives from around the world had the opportunity to share best practices from their local YouthCan! programs. Morocco, Indonesia, South Africa, and Madagascar all shared the secrets to the most successful aspects of their programs.

The conference ended with a final good-bye lunch at thyssenkrupp Elevator’s headquarters. After that, the participants parted ways to return to their home countries or, perhaps, to do a little sightseeing in Germany’s historic Ruhr Valley.

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