Generation update: Connecting graduates with jobs on three continents

When more than 75 million young adults are out of work globally and three times as many are underemployed, it can feel like a triumph every time a young person is hired into a skilled job.

Generation, a program spearheaded by the McKinsey Social Initiative, is addressing youth employment one small triumph at a time by helping young people build the skills they need to land good jobs in their local economies. Generation began with pilots in Spain and the United States and now has additional programs up and running in India, Kenya, and Mexico. The focus of each program depends on the local job market—the skills that employers need— but the learning is always intense. Generation courses are short, focused, and practical and free for participants.

So far, Generation graduates are achieving encouraging results. In Spain, where the focus is on digital skills, 90 percent of the first cohort continues to be employed 6 months (and counting) after graduation. In the United States, where the focus is on healthcare, 93 percent of all graduates from the Generation program went on to pass the exam to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs), far surpassing the 50 percent national average pass rate. Within a month of passing the exam, 85 percent were placed into quality healthcare jobs.

We checked in with two graduates of Generation, in the United States and Spain. Carly studied to become a CNA at Generation Pittsburgh and graduated this spring. In Madrid, Enrique studied digital marketing.


Carly, 20, grew up in Pittsburgh, a once-booming industrial city in America's rust belt. Still transitioning away from a manufacturing economy to other sectors, Pittsburgh is a challenging place for a young person to find a job, let alone start a career. Add to this the personal challenges that Carly had to face as a young mother at 19, armed with a high school degree, and little professional experience.

Carly and Tamika met during their program at Generation #Pittsburgh, where they trained to become certified #nurse assistants. More @youemployed

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After 2 years of working in the laundry of a nursing home, Carly heard about Generation's training program to become a CNA. An emerging interest in working with the elderly and a growing daughter at home motivated her to action. "I'll tell Delilah it's where we started. It's where Mommy started getting everything together for us," Carly says.

During the program, Carly developed a close-knit group of friends who carried each other through to graduation and beyond. "Generation played a big role in my evolution as an adult. They taught us how to be an adult in the real world, and that it's not always easy, but there are ways to do it."

Now employed as a CNA in the same nursing home where she worked in the laundry, Carly plans to continue studying to become a registered nurse. Her parents, she thinks, "are really shocked and proud that I made it this far. But they need to know that I'm not just stopping here. I am just excited to see what the world is going to give me. Bring it on, world."


Enrique, 25, studied business administration and management at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. But, like nearly 50 percent of young people his age in Spain, he struggled to find a job. Any job. "I felt powerless. I was even looking for work abroad, but I have lots of bonds here," he said.

Enrique, like many young people in #Spain, struggled to find a good #job. Then, he signed up for Generation Spain's intensive #digital #marketing course. Learn more by following @youemployed

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He learned about Generation Spain while surfing the Internet. "I applied after feeling frustrated, after thinking that I wasn't good, or that nobody cared about me."

After the Generation course in digital marketing, Enrique felt like he could finally fill the gaps between what he learned at university and the demands of the workplace. "When I was in university, they told us to work in teams, but nobody taught me how to do it. At Generation, we learn to work in teams. We've also gotten better at dealing with people, at speaking, at giving feedback. It's the first training I've ever received on how to do that."

After graduating, Enrique found a job at iDoctus, a start-up that digitizes medical files. With only twelve employees in the company, he reports directly to the CEO. Thanks to his newly acquired skills, he monitors the analytics for marketing and use of the company's app.

"For me, and I don't mean to exaggerate, but it's like I discovered a new planet. I now have a new world to explore. If not for Generation, it would have been much harder to find this kind of job."

Next up for Generation

More Generation graduates will be joining Carly and Enrique in the working world. A new class just graduated from a pilot to train CNAs in Wilmington, Delaware, and San Jose has a pilot in place as well. San Jose is slated to have its own CNA training pilot this year. Generation Kenya began in May and has already achieved inspiring results: a 98 percent job-placement rate for its first cohort, in financial services sales jobs that typically only go to university graduates. Generation India, where young people train for entry-level jobs in healthcare, also opened its doors this summer. Generation Mexico will place graduates in jobs in the retail sector and is accepting applications for its first cohort.

Generation will continue scaling to new sites and professions. Moreover, it's committed to measuring its return on investment both for its graduates and the employers who hire them. They've planned a 15-year longitudinal study to understand just how lives and businesses have changed as a result of participating in Generation.

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