Youth Essential Skills: Training Youth to Succeed in School, Work, and Leadership

Youth Essential Skills: Training Youth to Succeed in School, Work, and Leadership


IREX’s Youth Essential Skills (YES) methodology is a comprehensive approach to training young people for the opportunities and challenges of the future by strengthening crucial soft skills. 

These skills are so important that we call them essential skills. They are part of our Essential Skills approach. These research-backed skills have been proven to contribute to workforce and entrepreneurial success, civic participation, resilience, and youth leadership.

We've used the Essential Skills approach to train youth in 18 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East & North Africa, and the United States.

How It Works

We offer three customizable training options:

  • YES for Education (YES Edu) helps educators strengthen youth essential skills in school or after school and informs skill assessment approaches.
  • YES for Work (YES Work) helps strengthen essential skills of workers and entrepreneurs, improves their performance, and informs assessments.
  • YES for Leadership (YES Lead) helps youth strengthen essential skills in order to lead and contribute in their communities. 

The approach is designed to strengthen young people between the ages of 15 and 35 who have completed some secondary education.

Recognizing that young people have the ability to lead themselves and others, YES puts them in the driver’s seat of their own skill development journey through fun, practical, and engaging learning experiences. YES is designed to help participants become adaptable learners in a time of rapid change.

Facilitators use diverse, accessible, and affordable digital platforms to assess participants' skills. They also use the YES lifelong learning tool and framework to ensure that participants apply the skills that they learn.

Using YES Work to improve employees' performance

[YES Lead] equipped me with the right set of skills to be fully integrated in my community. I am now truly part of civil society in my community. A youth leader that received YES training


The Youth Essential Skills Suite teaches the following skills:

  • Higher-order thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Positive self-concept
  • Adaptability
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Resilience
  • Entrepreneurial thinking
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Inclusiveness
  • Learning to learn

For more information about each skill, read about our Essential Skills approach


  • In Kenya, we used YES with youth at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Participants improved their skills by more than 30%.    
  • In Nigeria, we used YES to train young employees at a start-up. After the training, 100% of participants reported being satisfied with the style of the training, the value it delivered, and the skills they gained.    
  • In Tunisia, we used YES to train young people in underserved communities to be leaders and community organizers who empower other youth. Within 3 months, these leaders strengthened the skills and resilience of nearly 300 other youth.