Promoting Employment and Economic Empowerment

AGI Lessons Learned

Mentoring can be an effective program component or delivery mechanism in comprehensive skills training projects. Experience suggests that, at a very low price tag, mentors can increase trainee's motivation and help reduce absenteeism and attrition during the classroom phase. Mentors can also be used to deliver life skills training and to assist with follow-up placement and business advisory services after the training.

Maximize frequent meaningful interactions between mentors and mentees. Practical experience indicates that more frequent interactions are important for nurturing relationships between mentors and mentees. The Liberia EPAG project switched to a classroom-based coaching model in Round 2 based on feedback from trainees who wanted more frequent interactions with mentors.

Retain mentors with incentives and rewards, and support them with capacity-building and supervision monitoring. Being a mentor can entail a substantial commitment of time and energy. Projects should acknowledge mentors’ contributions, compensate them for costs incurred by mentoring activities, and provide incentives to encourage retention. Compensation and incentives could be a small stipend, access to professional development skill-building and/or certification, mobile phone cards, or similar items.

Beneficiary feedback from the AGIs suggests that savings accounts can be empowering for young women. Facilitating access to savings in Liberia and Rwanda was a low-cost aspect of the projects that was very popular among the participants. Savings may contribute to participant's increased bargaining power and resilience to economic shocks in the longer term.

The AGI experience suggests that post-training support should be equal to the duration of the classroom training or perhaps even longer. In Jordan, Nepal, and South Sudan, the post-training phase was longer than the classroom phase; Liberia has made a similar adjustment in recent project cycles. Classroom training is also expensive, so programs should endeavor to only offer just as much as is needed and then follow up with a lot of support.

Plan for placement activities in the project cycle and budget appropriate human and financial resources. Placement support is often the area where the capacity of local training providers is the weakest, so projects need to provide support, training, and supervision so that training providers know what to do during the placement phase and are held accountable for these activities.

Projects should include responsibilities for placement and followup support in the service provider job descriptions and contracts. Whether the project is working with private sector, NGO or government providers, it is appropriate to task the providers with delivering followup employment and business advisory services. Make sure that the roles and responsibilities are clearly understood and that providers can be held accountable.

Young women’s entry into productive employment is complicated by widespread stereotypes about male versus female trades, gender-based wage discrimination, restrictions that limit their abilities to travel and work outside the home, women’s triple burden of juggling income generation, household duties and childrearing, and so on. For all of these reasons, it is critically important that skills projects emphasize employment and business support services as part of training, as well as during follow-up after the classroom phase.

The AGI pilots used mentors and coaches during and after the classroom training to deliver placement support and business advisory services. Mentors can link participants with information and motivate them to persevere in the face of difficulties with their businesses or employment, as well as in their personal lives. Mentors can also be role models, helping to grow young people’s aspirations and providing them with active reinforcement to overcome gender bias in labor markets. While the AGI pilots used female mentors, some evidence indicates that male mentors may be particularly effective in assisting women into male-dominated fields (see Further Reading).

Lesson Learned Issues to Consider Resources and Tools
Clearly define the role of mentors within the project and recruit mentors whose skills and experience are appropriate for the required duties
  • Location: Mentors typically reside in the same communities as the mentees to maximize interactions.
  • Appropriate age and gender: In South Sudan the adolescent leaders are young women and are able to communicate as peer educators. In Liberia older women are respected and are more effective mentors.
  • Skills: If the mentor is expected to provide business or professional advice, they should meet some minimum qualifications. Leadership, communication, and listening skills are also all very important.
  • Personal commitment: Mentors should demonstrate a sense of dedication and commitment to the job, and have sufficient time in their schedules to fulfill commitments.

Tool icon Liberia EPAG Coach ToR

Tool icon Liberia Coach Application Form

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Mentor Volunteer Stipend Rules

Experience indicates that more frequent interactions are important for nurturing relationships between mentors and mentees.
  • Using one-on-one versus group interactions will depend on the project design and the mentor's duties, but small group mentoring is usually more cost-effective and easier to monitor and supervise than one-on-one arrangements.
  • Ratio of mentors to mentees: Generally speaking lower ratios can allow mentors to focus more intensely on each mentee's needs. A suggested group mentoring ratio is 2 mentors to 20 mentees (2:20).
  • Dosage and frequency of interactions: Practical experience indicates that mentoring can be more effective if it allows for substantial interaction and occurs on a regular basis.
Resource icon Liberia EPAG Mentor-Mentee Agreement
Conduct mentor training at the project onset to ensure that mentors understand their roles and feel equipped to carry out their duties

Mentor training should cover: the project goals and structure; mentor roles and responsibilities; good practices in mentoring; problem-solving scenarios; communication strategies; and role-playing practice, and so on. 

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Mentor Training Guide
Monitoring of mentor activities should be included in routine project monitoring and feed into the overarching monitoring and reporting systems. Monitor mentors to keep track of the frequency of the meetings, as well as the content of the sessions Tool icon Liberia EPAG Mentor Logbook and Monitoring Form

Savings is a financial asset that can be important to young women’s economic empowerment (see Further Reading). Savings can be an important source of business startup capital, as well as a buffer against income shocks. Savings may also increase young women’s bargaining power in their households and their economic autonomy. Young people, especially girls, are not typically sensitized to the benefits of saving and often lack awareness of money management and savings strategies. Perhaps more importantly, young women generally do not have access to safe and secure places to store their savings. For instance, facilitating access to savings in Liberia and Rwanda was a low-cost aspect of the projects that was very popular among the participants.

Access to Savings. In both Liberia and Rwanda, AGI supports its participants to open savings accounts.

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Savings Guidelines

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Round Three Savings Match Factsheet

To support young women’s transition from training to employment, the AGI pilots provided three to six months of post-training job placement assistance or business advisory services. In some cases, the follow-up period exceeded the length of the classroom training. Although the appropriate balance of classroom training versus placement support has not been rigorously tested, experience suggests that such support may deserve greater attention than is typically the case. An extended follow-up period may be particularly important for young women who are new entrants to the labor market or if they are breaking into nontraditional fields.

Job Placement and Business Advisory Services
  Activities Resources and Tools
Job Placement Internships. In Afghanistan and Haiti, the AGI helps place graduates in internships after the training.

Resource icon Afghanistan MoU with Employers

Resource icon Haiti PowerPoint Presentation on Internships (“Stages” in French)

Wage subsidies. In Jordan, the AGI provided a wage subsidy to employers who agreed to hire AGI participants. Resource icon Jordan Fact Sheet for Chambers of Commerce and Firms
Job counseling, Interview practice, CV writing. Career counseling and business advisory services are particularly important for young women who may be further from the labor market and have smaller social networks and less access to information and opportunities.

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Life Skills Module "Preparing for the World of Work"

Business Advisory Services Business plan competitions. AGIs in Laos PDR and in Liberia organized business plan competitions with cash prizes for the winners to use as startup capital. Winners of the marketplace competition in Laos PDR were awarded small seed grants (startup or expansion capital ranging from USD $1000 to $5000). In Liberia, the business plan competition is held only for the business development skills trainees (not the job skills trainees). Winners receive cash prices ranging from $25 to $100.

Resource icon Lao Business Plan Competition Call for Proposals

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Business Plan Competition

Business recordkeeping refresher trainings  
Linkages to microfranchises and business capital through lending groups and microfinance institutions. In Liberia, the EPAG project convenes entrepreneur fairs for its trainees; the fairs provide linkages to microfranchising and microfinancing opportunities. Resource icon Liberia EPAG Entrepreneur Fair
Business mentoring and check-in monitoring. In Liberia and Rwanda, mentors (either volunteer or paid) assist with internships/job placement and follow-up, as well as business development support and linkages to microfinance or microfranchise opportunities. Tool icon Rwanda Mentor ToR
Cooperative formation. In Rwanda, the project encourages participants to form registered cooperatives to embark on joint business ventures.  

For more information on mentoring in the AGI, see: AGI Learning from Practice Note on Mentoring for Success in the Labor Market | World Bank | 2014.

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