USAID joins business leaders and Sri Lanka government to launch "YouLead!"

With the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a coalition of partners from the Government of Sri Lanka, the private sector, non-profit organizations, think tanks, and academic institutions launched an initiative to increase the employability of Sri Lankan youth.

“YouLead” is a $12 million initiative that will link youth to productive careers in the Sri Lankan economy by creating a more market–oriented, skilled, and flexible Sri Lankan workforce.


USAID and its partners will collaborate over a four-year period to help young Sri Lankans between the ages of 16 and 35 become more competitive in the labor market.


“YouLead” will also engage the private sector and the Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training on skills, knowledge, and capacity-building activities that aim to increase youth employability and sustainable self-employment.


“YouLead” regional focus is on the provinces with the highest youth unemployment—Sabaragamuwa, Central, Southern, and Northern Provinces.


The project also aims to foster increased opportunities for self-employment by improving the skills of young entrepreneurs and working with financial institutions to encourage more lending to youth-led start-ups.


Given the substantial number of unemployed women and their 35 percent workforce participation rate, “YouLead” will encourage more women to enter the workforce and take up in-demand careers.


At the inauguration ceremony in Colombo on October 19, U.S. Ambassador Atul Keshap said, “The future of Sri Lanka depends on its youth gaining the skills and knowledge that will power the country’s prosperity.”


Ambassador Keshap emphasized the significance of public-private partnerships, noting, “by deploying the resources and knowledge of government and business,“YouLead” aligns global best-practice tools and training with in-demand jobs.”


The inauguration also featured the Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training Honorable Chandima Weerakkody; USAID Mission Director, Dr. Andrew Sisson; Vice President of the International Executive Service Corps (IESC) and in-Country Project Director for YouLead!, Charles Conconi; Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Rajendra Theagarajah; President of the American Chamber of Commerce, Kumudu Gunasekera; together with corporate luminaries, youth leaders, and role models.

“Matching skills and jobs has become a high priority not just for our success as a nation but on a global level" said The Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training, Hon Chandima Weerakkody.


“Many employers report difficulties in finding suitably skilled workers, thus it is imperative that all curricula and skills development programs undertaken do so with continuous consultation and feedback from the industries and sectors that provide employment.


Without this the skills mismatch continues to be a crippling problem not just to the youth of the country but also negatively impacts the economic growth of the nation.


So let us take into consideration the repeatedly highlighted requirements of employers', as well as have the initiative to preempt what the future requirements will be and train our youth accordingly."


The Minister thanked USAID, the” YouLead” team and their partners for agreeing to help young people develop much needed skills, and enhance their ability to secure proper, career enhancing employment.


The USAID-funded “YouLead“ program is administered by VEGA (Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance) and implemented by IESC, an organization that has worked with hundreds of private enterprises in Sri Lanka since 1965.


Under “YouLead“, IESC will partner with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce, Arizona State University, Global Communities, Skills for Life, and Verité Research.



USAID is the development agency of the U.S. Government, and has provided development and humanitarian assistance to developing countries worldwide for more than 55 years.


In Sri Lanka, the U.S. Government has provided over two billion dollars since 1956.


Photo caption:

1.) Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Rajendra Theagarajah

2.) U.S. Ambassador Atul Keshap

3.) Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training Honorable Chandima Weerakkody

4.) Vice President of the International Executive Service Corps (IESC) and in-Country Project Director for YouLead!, Charles Conconi

5.) Info graphic about YouLead! 

Last modified on Friday, 20 October 2017 08:01