Igniting the potential of Lao youth by empowering them through training and technology

During US President Barack Obama’s visit to Laos in September 2016, part of his tour of Asia, he highlighted how US companies are making a difference and helping to drive innovation and economic growth in Laos. This follows the signing of an agreement between Lao Government and Microsoft to partner on a technology platform to provide youth with training resources.

Lao Youthwork
The YouthWorks agreement was concluded between Michelle Simmons, General Manager, Southeast Asia New Markets, Microsoft Asia Pacific; Dr Thansamay Kommasith, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications; and Sengdeuane Lachanthaboun, Minister of Education and Sports; witnessed by Daniel A. Clune, US Ambassador to Laos (image: Vientiane Times)

Youth empowerment, education, and employment are key to the future. This is particularly relevant in Laos where 58 percent of the population is under the age of 24. It reflects the booming youth population across the Asia Pacific region, which comprises over 60 percent of the world’s youth.

To empower young people to achieve more and build a better future with technology, Microsoft has partnered with the government, alongside the Asian Development Bank, to develop an online one-stop technology platform, called YouthWorks. This is designed to provide universal access to online training and employment services.

The Microsoft YouthWorks platform provides career guidance; an array of over 2,500 courses including ICT, entrepreneurship, vocational and soft skills; a mentorship platform; and a job placement site. Many subjects are available for prospective students to study, including technology, engineering, accounting and English.

The platform is already operating in 18 countries, tailored to country-specific needs in partnership with government ministries, international organizations, non-government organizations and other development partners. Over the past two years, over 26 million youth have accessed the platform to support their skill development and to find employment.

As part of the partnership, the Asian Development Bank will also be providing resources to assist the public and private sector to develop locally relevant education and training materials as well as employment services for the platform.

The project was referenced by US President Barack Obama in his speech during his visit to Laos, which was broadcast live from a state luncheon hosted by the Lao president and other government leaders. He was visiting Laos for a series of regional summit meetings.

President Obama highlighted Microsoft’s commitment to Laos as an example of how US companies are making a difference and helping to drive innovation and economic growth in the country, as well as the wider ASEAN region.

The US president also reiterated the importance and mutual benefits of ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the recently signed agreement among twelve countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam. These countries account for about 40% of global GDP and 800 million people.

Microsoft supports the TPP deal, which is expected to have a positive impact not just on the individual countries participating but also on the wider regional economy. The agreement strengthens rules-based trading regimes in fast growing markets and contains new provisions to enable digital trade, such as respecting privacy and security while promoting the free flow of data.

Strong trade agreements and trade policies are a complement to other economic policies needed to compete in the 21st century economy, such as building trust in technology with privacy and security policies and in preparing the workforce of the future — all initiatives that Microsoft embraces.

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