To revolutionise youth employment programmes using Jobtech, understanding the challenges and selecting the right partners is essential.

In the first part of this series, we introduced Jobtech and explored its sub-sectors. We discussed the overlap between Jobtech and market systems development for employment (MSD4E), highlighting how Jobtech can transform labour market functions. We also discussed the potential for applying systems thinking in Jobtech to drive systems change and scale. 

Now, let's delve into how development agencies can harness the power of Jobtech to maximise impact within programmes.

Understand the challenge first before embarking on an intervention

To effectively leverage Jobtech in youth employment programmes, you first need to understand the challenges faced by young people. Instead of starting with a predetermined tech solution, first identify constraints, proritising the most critical one(s) and only then start to explore how technology and innovative platforms can address these challenges.

Digital solutions are not always the best way to address constraints that young people face. However, their potential often goes unnoticed in market system assessments that lack input from Jobtech experts. Including Jobtech-related questions in assessments helps collect crucial evidence to inform intervention design. For example, engaging local market actors can yield insights into current digital trends, supply and demand of existing Jobtech products and data on the digital divide, digital literacy, and tech adoption rates. 

We suggest that after identifying a potential Jobtech solution, you conduct a comprehensive assessment to uncover why these opportunities haven't been used already. With this insight, the programme team can start generating ideas and strategies to overcome obstacles, enabling the use of technology for transformative solutions.

When selecting high-priority areas for intervention, consider four important questions: 

  1. Is there an opportunity for scalable systemic change?
  2. Would the opportunity genuinely benefit marginalised workers and/or jobseekers?
  3. Is this a viable opportunity within the market system? For example, in the case of a commercial solution, do market trends show profitability prospects?
  4. Is it feasible to implement technology interventions in the target areas?

You should be able to answer ‘yes’ to all four questions for your chosen interventions.

Partner identification and selection

During this stage, you can also identify existing ecosystem players who have solutions that are hindered by bottlenecks to implementation or scaling.

By doing desk research and interviews with market experts and innovators you can help to map out existing players and understand their incentives and capacities. This process is important for identifying and selecting partners to co-design interventions with. Seek partners who understand the sector, are already incentivised to develop solutions for the identified challenges, and are willing to play the long game rather than focusing solely on short-term gains. Such partners should have a proven innovation track record.

In crisis-affected markets, it may be hard to find players who have already developed solutions. In such cases, collaborate with motivated players in adjacent sectors to develop and implement groundbreaking solutions. For example, you might consider partnering with financial providers, education institutions or telecommunications companies. Explore ongoing private or government-led initiatives to identify potential synergies.

Begin by engaging with organisations identified during the market assessment. If they show clear potential and incentives, move on to solution design and implementation. However, it's worth noting that the Jobtech market might be smaller than other industries, even in mature markets. If that’s the case, an open call for innovation could be useful in targeting players interested in developing tech-based solutions.

There are, however, many risks associated with this approach. Disseminating the call through industry-specific channels, like incubators and accelerators, is crucial to filter out opportunistic applicants. Regardless of the approach, the goal is to identify and engage with innovative partners with the capacity and commitment to develop sustainable, impactful solutions.

Flexibility and openness to risks

Jobtech players, often in early stages of development, require more significant support than traditional market systems partners. While conventional MSD advice is to avoid partnering with start-ups because of their limited market presence, the context changes when seeking Jobtech partners.

Start-ups in the Jobtech sector are generally more open to experimenting with innovative ideas and models. But this approach comes with inherent risks, especially for marginalised populations, as these interventions lack extensive testing. Besides, the rapidly evolving Jobtech sector needs flexibility and regular business iteration to avoid falling behind. This requires a strong  appetite to risk from the programme implementers.

To manage risk, you might consider implementing multiple Jobtech interventions - where identified constraints align. This helps diversify the programme's approach and minimises over-reliance on one solution.

For example, one intervention could focus on providing access to MSME markets, while another focuses on job matching. It’s important to manage the expectations of various stakeholders, especially funders, since partners often take time to lift off the ground and reach scale.

Account for enabling (and limiting) factors

Identifying opportunities and partners is essential. But equally critical is assessing enabling factors for the intervention’s feasibility in the target area. This includes mobile and internet access, digital literacy and device availability.

For instance, the Ethiopian LIWAY programme tackled literacy and access issues by establishing call centres as alternatives to web and app-based applications, making it accessible to those without internet or smartphones.

To maximise the impact of Jobtech in youth employment programmes, it is crucial to understand the market challenges and then tailor interventions. 

Success hinges on ensuring that interventions focus on systemic change; that feasibility factors are taken into account; and that the right partners - incentivised and with proven expertise - are selected to co-develop sustainable solutions.

Part 1 in this series introduces Jobtech and explores its sub-sectors:

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