Iraqi Youth Find Employment

Iraqi Youth Find Employment
Rana Mohammed Ali, left, is one of 15 young Iraqis who found jobs at five Tikrit pharmacies thanks to Wedad Abdul-Halim, center, a pharmacist in Salah ad Din.
Photo by Saif Jewad, USAID-Tijara
Training, small business loans help job seekers
By 2012, more than 3,200 youth had been trained to be independent entrepreneurs.
At the start of 2010, Iraq had one of the highest rates of unemployment in the Middle East. Thirty percent of its adults lacked jobs. More than half of the country's young urban males were unemployed. At 19 percent, female participation in the workforce was even lower, according to World Bank estimates.
Restless youths, desperate for something to do, often joined terrorist militias, perpetuating the cycle of violence.
As part of its Tijara Provincial Economic Growth Program, in April 2010, USAID started the Iraqi Youth Initiative, with a goal to create 2,500 full-time jobs for Iraqis between the ages of 18-35. Selected youths received training at one of 11 small business development centers around the country. The initiative was funded in part by the U.S. Ambassador’s Targeted Development Program. 
Youth who were interested in starting their own businesses were referred to the Youth Entrepreneurship Access to Finance program. Aspiring entrepreneurs received help writing a business plan and were introduced to microfinance institutions working with the Tijara program that could provide startup financing.
Young people interested in business skill development were sent to the Youth Employment Promotion program, where they learned language and computer skills, how to write a resume, and office etiquette. USAID-Tijara located Iraqi companies willing to provide apprenticeships to worthy young Iraqis and then matched prospective employees with employers.
By 2012, 3,256 youth had been trained to be independent entrepreneurs under the Youth Entrepreneurship program. Some 1,165 youth, 13 percent of them women, had started businesses with microfinancing worth more than $4 million. 
Of the 1,455 people trained by the Youth Employment program, 800 received apprenticeships with Iraqi companies. Thirty-four percent were women. More than 845 Iraqi companies pledged an additional 2,861 apprenticeships that could lead to permanent jobs.
Thanks in part to the Iraqi Youth Initiative and other USAID development efforts, as of 2012, Iraq’s unemployment hovered slightly above 15 percent and, according to United Nations estimates, the country’s youth unemployment had fallen to 23 percent. 
The USAID-Tijara Provincial Economic Growth Program, which ran from January 2008-December 2012, promoted private sector growth and employment in Iraq.