Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Hilton at the launch of the “Youthworks” partnership

February 28, 2018

Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training, Honorable Chandima Weerakkody; Secretary, Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training, Mr. Piyasena Ranepura; Microsoft Country Manager, Mr. Hasitha Abeywardana; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen; good morning and welcome!

I am delighted to join you today to launch the “Youthworks” portal, a joint initiative between the United States Agency for International Development and Microsoft in cooperation with the Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training.  This is a fantastic partnership between the public and private sectors.  A great American corporation, Microsoft, is working with USAID and the Ministry of Skills Development to help address Sri Lanka’s growing vocational education and employment needs.  This benefits not only Sri Lanka’s youth, but also employers, educators, and policymakers.

As a USAID assistance project, YouLead is “from the American people” in that it is supported through funding from the American taxpayer, more than 1.8 billion Sri Lankan rupees ($12 million) over four years to support youth employment, vocational skills and entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka.   The addition of Microsoft’s contribution and partnership underscores a very important and often overlooked form of assistance, as well as the commitment and role of the American private sector in economic growth worldwide.

When public and private resources come together to support a common good, real progress takes place.  YouLead is currently helping to improve the employability of Sri Lanka’s youth by teaching them the skills that properly align with market demand, so that they are able to take advantage of the rapidly growing and changing Sri Lankan economy.  The Youthworks portal, donated by Microsoft, is a perfect complement to the YouLead project.  The portal will disseminate vital information about vocational and technical courses, career guidance, mentorship, and employment opportunities across the country, linking youth to available jobs and self-employment opportunities.  Sri Lanka’s youth, along with employers, educators and policymakers, will be able to join the more than 26 million people worldwide, who have accessed YouthWorks over the last two years alone.

We are fortunate that we can launch this portal at a time when the tourism, construction, and retailing sectors in Sri Lanka are thriving and generating significant employment. It is vital that Sri Lanka ensures the younger generations are geared to take maximum advantage of these opportunities.  To sustain and improve the growth Sri Lanka has generated over the past several years, it is essential that Sri Lanka’s youth have the skills they need for productive employment.

This year we are celebrating 70 years of bilateral partnership between the United States and Sri Lanka and more than 60 years of development and humanitarian support.  During this journey, America has supported agriculture, business development, environment, health, education, infrastructure, transportation, good governance, and humanitarian assistance.  We are now extremely happy to be supporting the youth of Sri Lanka to help them innovate, develop and prosper.

In closing, let me congratulate Microsoft and YouLead on this groundbreaking venture and thank the Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training for their partnership.  I look forward to seeing the results of your collective efforts.