EFC and ILO call for sustainable partnerships for youth employment

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The Employers’ National Network of Youth Initiatives (ENNYI), an initiative of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) and supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which had its soft launch last month at the EFC premises, was officially launched at the Taj Samudra on 23 March. The launch of ENNYI was followed by the launch of its official website www.empowerme.lk by EFC Chairman Susantha Ratnayake before a distinguished gathering of representatives of the EFC’s member companies, representatives of the ILO, university academics and officials from the government ministries.

The main objective of the ENNYI is to provide a window for undergraduates into the real world of work through internships offered by the EFC’s member companies. These include leading corporates in the country as well as multi-national companies. Among the other objectives of the ENNYI are, to increase the overall quality of the internship experience, so as to actually contribute to the employability of the intern and the maximisation of both the social and private return of the initiative. 

While ensuring equal opportunities to access merit based internship positions, ENNYI also allows employers to earmark competent young undergraduates and graduates who are potential employees of their organisations. Moreover, ENNYI enables undergraduates from the national universities, coming from less disadvantaged backgrounds, notably from rural areas, to gain access to the world of work before graduation. To facilitate this process, ENNYI has created a common portal www.empowerme.lk. The website is a practical tool for the potential intern and the employer to come to a common platform by enabling easy access of information of both parties. 

ENNYI in its initial phase will tie up with the Universities of Colombo, Kelaniya and Ruhuna and thereafter will extend to other universities and institutes. ENNYI will be part of the Global Apprenticeship Network, which is an initiative of the EFC’s international affiliate – the International Organisation of Employers. 

In his welcome address and the introduction to the ENNYI, EFC Director General Kanishka Weerasinghe said that over the years, members of the EFC and its Affiliated Associations Group have shown much resilience and commitment in creating jobs and other opportunities for the youth despite having to contend with many obstacles. 

“The EFC’s decision to create a common platform, through the ENNYI, follows the lead to collate these efforts by ‘forging sustainable partnerships’ between the ‘demand side’ and the ‘supply side’ and not forgetting the policy makers. The ‘up-scaling’ in creating decent jobs and developmental opportunities for the youth of this country are the ultimate objectives to be achieved through this venture.”

ILO Country Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives Donlin Li speaking at the event said that, for the ILO, the promotion of job opportunities and decent work for young people is a central concern. “The ILO has initiated programs in Sri Lanka to support youth employment premised upon the four ‘E’s of employment, namely through promoting equality in access to decent work; strengthening the employability of youth to make the transition from school-to-work; building entrepreneurship skills for young people as a means to economic empowerment whilst working closely with employers towards employment creation for young persons, by promotion of investment in sectors that generate jobs for youth.”

He further said that to provide more and equitable access to internship opportunities, ILO together with the EFC, wishes to collaborate with selected universities to establish a structured internship scheme, building on efforts undertaken by a number of EFC members to increase the number and quality of learning opportunities available to Sri Lanka’s graduates within the ‘ILO Youth Employment project’ which was implemented in 2015.

While urging for an ‘inclusive approach’ required by all stakeholders in order to create a generation of graduates with a ‘good mindset’, University Grants Commission of Sri Lanka Chairman Prof. Mohan de Silva applauded the ENNYI for creating a platform to mould ‘productive and employable graduates’.