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close this bookNon-formal Vocational Training Programmes for Disadvantaged Youth and their Insertion into the World of Work: Towards a Framework for Analysis and Evaluation (IIEP, 1999, 46 p.)
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Of great potential at the local level, non-formal training programmes are but a piecemeal response to a much larger problem which requires comprehensive approaches. Nevertheless, a review of the literature in this field of study suggests that this theme has been experiencing a renewed - though non-systematic - valorization. This has occurred as a result of poverty acceleration in many developing countries, rising rates of unemployment worldwide, and revised conceptions of the informal sector, for which non-formal training programmes have been most often tailored.

In the past, several formal vocational training programmes have been set up (publicly or privately financed) to absorb the student clientele which did not wish or was not able to finish general secondary education (Bowman, 1990). The last decade has witnessed a growing awareness on the part of development specialists and funding agencies that these formal vocational training programmes - due to their minimum educational requirements and restricted capacity - had not been designed to cater to the needs of a highly increasing number of ill- and/or uneducated youth in developing countries. Consequently, the acknowledged mismatch between formal programmes and the characteristics of disadvantaged youth, prompted the rapid diffusion of numerous delivery systems whose services were aimed at this specific clientele.

To discuss: 'a framework for analysis and evaluation of non-formal training programmes geared towards disadvantaged youth's insertion into the world of work' implies, in the first place, that disadvantaged youth is already perceived as being on the fringe of productive societies and, secondly, that a positive relationship between training and the world of work has been previously established, thereby justifying the whole enterprise. Whereas numerous emerging initiatives around the issue of insertion of disadvantaged youth into work1 point to a growing awareness of the gradual 'exclusion' of youth from productive activities, the links between non-formal training and work have not yet been firmly established.2

1 The seminar “Jeunes Ville Emploi - Quel avenir pour la jeunesse africaine?”, organized by the Minist de la Cooption et du Dloppement, 1992, is a recent example of such an effort.

2 Hallak and Caillods (1981) Education, training and the traditional sector focused basically on the impact of formal education/training on the access and productivity of the traditional sector.

Generally speaking, education and training are known to increase one's chances to earn a livelihood and join the economically active population, besides assisting one's self-development (Kanawaty and Moura Castro, 1990). Consistent with this view is the argument that rising unemployment rates should not justify cuts or reduction in training investments since employment is a function of growth and development, which in turn cannot take place without sustained education and training efforts. Therefore, what seems to be at stake today for advocates of the 'training' potential is not so much whether or not training - be it formal or non-formal -should be provided for, but how the existing training efforts could be adapted to take into account the changing factors (e.g. the demand for new skills and the new profile of labour market entrants, to mention a few).

It cannot be forgotten, however, that some authors (e.g. Fluitman, in Wallenborn, 1989b) question the rushed election of 'training' as a potential area of intervention, when it is not so clear whether training is needed, wanted, or even feasible within the scope of the non-structured sector of the labour market.3 Furthermore, it is worth noting that other variables - linked to the so-called 'supportive environment for micro-enterprises' - are currently deemed as important as training in any study considering effective strategies towards self-employment (McLaughlin, in Turnham et al., 1990). In this sense, it can be argued that training represents, perhaps more than ever before, just one strategy in a compounded approach in favour of social development (United Nations, 1995).

3 The author recalls that it often goes unrecognized that many informal sector workers have been able to acquire certain skills without 'external' aid (mostly through on-the-job experiences as apprentices or unpaid family helpers) which would, in turn, suggest that training may need to take many shapes and forms in the real world, such as the provision for skill upgrading (Fluitman, ed. by Wallenborn, 1989:pp.35-36)

The task of extracting lessons from the field in order to identify elements of a possible framework for evaluation and further analysis, entails a larger understanding of the broader literature concerning theories, concepts and empirical data on employment, labour market structure and education and training programmes. The literature selected and reviewed for this study attempted to illustrate these numerous fields of study.

Finally, the construction of a framework for the analysis and evaluation of non-formal training programmes, based on practices considered either effective or of great potential from a social development perspective, is of particular relevance to the work of international organisms engaged in the task of informing, guiding or assisting in the planning of wider educational and training strategies.


This report was written with the objective of depicting effective strategies and approaches that are being used in relation to the non-formal training and the insertion into work of an increasingly large population of disadvantaged youth that remains unemployed or underemployed in the rural towns or urban centres of the developing world. Concretely, how can disadvantaged youth be best prepared for engaging in self-sustaining work activities? Which agencies seem to be making a difference in this direction? Which approaches and/or strategies stand out as bearing on the steering of 'disadvantaged youth' into the world of work? These are some of the main questions that have guided this study.


By focusing on 'non-formal training programmes', and on 'disadvantaged youth in developing countries', this report attempts to inscribe these topics in the larger socio-political and economic context. For this reason, a diverse body of literature - empirical studies and conceptual papers - was selected for review. These publications covered the fields of: (a) disadvantaged youth in developing countries; (b) world employment, demographic growth and youth unemployment; (c) the informal sector in rural and urban areas of developing countries; and (d) the vocational and technical (formal and non-formal) training programmes within the context of larger, comprehensive supporting strategies, most of which are represented by the bibliographical references cited in this document. Therefore, this study also reflects an attempt to capture the issue of interest from different viewpoints, or perspectives.

It is worth noting that the aim of this report was not to cover and exhaust all the available material but, rather, to assure representativeness of topics consistently raised and discussed in the literature. Furthermore, whereas the publications on the employment problem, population growth and the structure of the informal sector in developing countries are quite abundant and easily located, only a scattered body of literature in which priority is given to the specific contribution of non-formal training programmes to disadvantaged youth could be encountered (e.g. Corval 1984 and Fluitman, in Wallenborn, 1989). Nevertheless, altogether these studies constitute a rich material from which to extract lessons to construct a framework for the analysis and assessment of non-formal vocational training programmes.

Furthermore, the recent literature reviewed for the purpose of this study points to an increasing number of phenomena - e.g. the informalization of the economy and the formalization of the informal sector - which lead to an inevitable relativization of concepts and categories being used. This study has, therefore, attempted to account for these complex changes and adaptations which have taken place in this field.

To sum up, the issue of 'non-formal training for disadvantaged youth (in developing countries) and their insertion in the world of work' is herein treated: (i) from an embedded or integrated approach, in which specific themes are contained in comprehensive approaches, and contextualized into a larger global perspective, and (ii) from a dynamic and inter-dependent perspective in which categories are not stable, cannot be discussed in isolation, or much less in opposition to one another.


This report deals specifically with the uneducated or the ill-educated population cohort, (roughly) between the ages of 14 and 24, which is either unemployed or underemployed. The terminology 'disadvantaged youth', refers to young men and women who suffer from the consequences of an unassisted childhood, have had little or no exposure to education and training opportunities and whose weak social and family connections do not facilitate access to formal or informal business networks.

'Training', in this study, acquires the broad meaning of: “any transfer of knowledge, skills or attitudes which is organized to prepare people for productive activities, or to change their working behaviour. Training may therefore concern first-time learners, and people who have worked all their lives (...). It encompasses vocational, technical, managerial, entrepreneurial, societal and other useful skills.” (Fluitman, 1989:p.35).

'Non-formal training' refers to any programme or provision that does not comply with the formal or structured organization usually encountered in formal training institutions and in the formal schooling system. Non-formal training programmes may take many forms, one of them being the flexible non-formal structure of business advisory services (Fluitman, 1989).


The problem of working children is purposely excluded from the present discussions, to the extent that it raises issues of great density such as 'minimum age' conventions, forced labour, the availability of schooling and social support systems for poor families, all of which deserve particular attention and careful examination, far exceeding the objectives of this study4. Sure enough, this army of working children is bound to become the ill-educated 'disadvantaged youth' of tomorrow, as the great majority waives attendance at school in order to guarantee, even under precarious conditions, their own or their families' survival. Addressing the needs of this sector of the population should be the high priority of national governments in developing countries and part of any comprehensive long-term strategy of social development.

4Some of these issues have already been discussed in: Leonardos, A.C. (1995) Effective strategies and approaches for reaching street and working children through education: reviewing recent developments, Issues and Methodologies in Educational Development, No. 12,/UNESCO/IIEP, 1995.

Furthermore, this study places focus on the urban and rural disadvantaged youth of developing countries. The differences in their social, cultural and political background as well as the particularities of each region within the developing world will also be heeded whenever applicable, as they vary greatly.

Formal vocational training programmes will be discussed only in as far as they may bring evidence to bear on the case of non-formal programmes. As will be discussed later by assuming that there is some degree of education, these vocational training programmes are not addressed to the disadvantaged youth population but rather to the upper-lower and middle-class population cohort of developing countries.

Finally, welfare programmes - much more common in developed than in developing countries - will not be included in this study either. The focus will be placed primarily on supporting strategies and approaches (comprehensive and piecemeal) initiated by non-formal delivery systems (GOs and NGOs) geared towards the training of the disadvantaged youth and their insertion into working life.


This report has been structured so that it conveys the complexity of the issue - i.e. how it is bound up with larger structural problems and its dynamically changing nature. The first part, What is the issue? brings a description of 'disadvantaged youth' followed by a discussion on global tendencies - unemployment trends, demographic growth, failing links between education and work and, finally, the growth and potential of the informal sector -, which attempts to contextualize the issue of 'disadvantaged youth' in developing countries. The second part, In which ways has the issue evolved? offers a dynamic view of a constantly changing field of practice, action and research. A discussion of the major structural changes undergone by developing economies in the past decade is delineated, their impact on the working opportunities of the disadvantaged youth is analyzed and a sample of non-formal vocational training programmes from developing countries are described in greater detail. Finally, Part III, Developing a framework for the study and evaluation of non-formal vocational training programmes puts forth a debate on programme features that have been identified in the literature as 'successful'; approaches that can be considered 'innovative' and, strategies that seem to lead to programme 'sustainability', with the ultimate aim of discussing possible parameters for the evaluation of non-formal vocational training programmes in developing countries.