May 11, 2016, Forbes

The UK-based Youth Career Initiative (YCI) just won the International Tourism Partnerships (ITP) People category award at the Tourism 4 Tomorrow awards ceremony for its successful six-month education and training program offered to disadvantaged and in some cases trafficked youth in 19 countries across five continents.

Raini Hamdi, a Forbes contributor, writing about hotels and tourism, shares this story in her article:

At age 14, Chung Nguyen Khac, a Vietnamese, became an orphan and lived on support from the local authority and neighbors. Leaving school after graduating from ninth grade, he took on work as a cleaner of pig heads and ears. When a neighbor heard about Youth Career Initiative (YCI), she immediately told him about it. Two interviews later, during which YCI assessed Chung and his career aspirations, he was accepted for a six-month training and education program as a pastry trainee. He is today pastry chef of the Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake Hotel.

YCI bridges the gap between the hotel industry’s need for skilled local talent and the high percentage of unemployed young people around the world. YCI originated in Bangkok in 1995 as a community initiative of the Pan Pacific Hotels Group. Beginning with eight girls and one boy from “welfare schools” in Northern Thailand, YCI expanded to the Philippines in 1998 and to Indonesia in 2004. Today, YCI spans the globe.

There are more than 3,000 YCI graduates, including 64 survivors of human trafficking. YCI raises most of its support from the major hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, Burba, Carlson, and IHG, and from private foundations and hotel investment conference organizers.

NPQ is familiar with travel industry news that impacts the social sector, such as this report about a Carnival cruise for volunteer tourism, this Italian hotel dedicated to inclusion, and Hilton recycling hotel soap for developing countries. NPQ also reports on the crime and consequences of human trafficking, youth unemployment and job training for youth. In the NPQ spring 2015 edition, Peter Dreier concluded his extensive analysis on “free markets and place-based initiatives” with this apt assessment:

The most effective way to address poverty and urban decline is to address their root causes, which involve the vast and growing inequalities of income, wealth, and political power. Focusing narrowly on revitalizing poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and relying on “market” forces to solve these problems, is shortsighted and misguided. Social-justice philanthropy has a long and valuable tradition in the United States, but it is still a marginal part of the foundation world. If philanthropists want to help create a more humane, fair, and democratic society, they should support the many organizations and activists who are building a movement for shared prosperity.

“Building a movement for shared prosperity” is exactly what YCI is working to create in partnership with the travel industry, which is experiencing a 3.1 percent annual growth rate despite uncertainty in the global economy and challenges such as the Zika virus, Ebola and safety threats. According to this 2016 report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the travel and tourism industry added 7.2 million jobs and contributed $7.2 trillion to the gross domestic product in 2015.

The need is great. According to “Towards Solutions for Youth Employment: A 2015 Baseline Report,” a third of the world’s 1.8 billion youth are currently unemployed, out of school. or not in training programs. The World Bank, Plan International, the International Youth Foundation, Youth Business International, RAND, Accenture and the International Labor Organization worked together to produce this report. High unemployment among youth hurts both individuals and countries: “Governments forgo tax revenue and incur the cost of social safety nets, unemployment benefits and insurances, and lost productivity. Businesses risk losing a generation of customers. What we see is a generation in economic crisis.”

YCI operates in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe. Perhaps there is a U.S.-based organization addressing these same issues that could benefit by bringing the YCI model to North America.—James Schaffer