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Social Marketing for Greater Youth Involvement in the Trades and Technology Sector

Sri Lanka is banking on education and employment for youth

Many efforts have been put toward reconstruction and development in Sri Lanka following the end of a 30-year civil war in 2009. Social inclusion, employment, career paths, and the education and training of young people have all been important areas of focus for the country’s government.

These targeted efforts have had a positive outcome on the education of youth in Sri Lanka. The secondary school enrolment rate is high, at 96%, and the post-secondary enrolment rate has gone up by 5% in the past decade to 19%.

However, the youth unemployment rate remains high at 18.5%, especially among rural youth, and young women are almost twice as likely to be unemployed than young men. Most unemployed youth eventually become drivers or housemaids, enter the informal labour market, or even try to leave Sri Lanka, with hope for a better future elsewhere.

WUSC is partnering with market actors in Sri Lanka to improve employment outcomes for youth

In Sri Lanka, WUSC is helping to close the gap between the human resource needs of growing businesses and the youth who are eager to enter the workforce but lack the technical and soft skills required. Our work focuses on marginalized Sri Lankan youth, including young women and youth living with disabilities, who face additional barriers to accessing quality training and employment.  

We take a holistic approach to address the barriers that prevent youth from accessing decent job opportunities. In collaboration with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training, we are working to create a more inclusive skills-for-employment system. Our private sector partners are supported to better assess their employment gaps so that training institutions can be supported reshape their curricula to better reflect current needs in the labour market.

This effort has also been supported by a national social marketing campaign. Through carefully crafted messages across a variety of platforms, we aim to increase the recognition, value, and respect for the skilled women and men who work in the trades and technology sector.

Social marketing helps break down stereotypes associated with the trades and technology sector

Opportunities for fair and fulfilling employment for youth do exist in Sri Lanka. High growth sectors include hospitality and tourism, information and communication technology, automotive, light engineering, and construction.

To access these opportunities, potential employees need both technical and soft skills, as well as the support of their family to succeed.

However, due to the limited knowledge people have of employment in the trades and technology sector, they often have a negative and preconceived image of what working in these fields is like. Families discourage youth from accessing training opportunities in these fields underestimating the potential careers they can offer.  

The #SkillupSriLanka social marketing campaign aims to break down these stereotypes. We are working toward changing perceptions among youth and their families by presenting success stories of their peers who are working in the trades and technology sector.

Our campaign presents a fresh look at these growing sectors and the dignified and viable careers they have to offer, compared to the precarious jobs youth typically take on. We emphasize how cultivating their passions and working hard to achieve their goals can pay off. The campaign also challenges traditional gender roles by featuring young women working in traditionally male-dominated sectors, such as automotive engineering.   

Related Read: Switching gears for a brighter future: Meet one of the young women challenging gender stereotypes and finding employment in Sri Lanka’s automotive sector.

Trending, awards, and the sustainability of social marketing.

The campaign was promoted through various communications channels, including a website, YouTube videos, TV commercials, press ads, and radio jingles. A theme song was also developed, which trended at the top of the charts on YouTube in Sri Lanka! Our target was to reach 8.4 million people countrywide, which we surpassed by 3.8 million!

After running for 27 weeks, we were pleased to learn that our social marketing campaign won the Festival of Media Asia Pacific award in the not-for-profit category. Rewarding the very best media campaigns from around the globe, the Festival of Media Awards recognizes the outstanding efforts of  brands, agencies, and digital/marketing specialists. These awards provide the benchmark for innovation in media.#SkillupSriLanka was the only Sri Lankan campaign to be shortlisted, and the first Sri Lankan campaign to ever win an award.

As we begin to wrap up our current initiative for youth employment in Sri Lanka, the Line Ministry and other project stakeholder in the country have expressed interest in carrying on the use of materials developed. These partners will keep raising awareness and breaking down stereotypes associated with the trades and technology sector in Sri Lanka.

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