Client name: UK Department for International Development (DFID)

Duration: 2010-2011

Location: Iraq

Coffey supported a successful pilot program aimed at strengthening vocational skills and reducing unemployment among the youth in Iraq’s Basra region. 


Iraq has a substantial youth population, and unemployment among this group is high. In Iraq’s Basra province, youths often lack the skills necessary to fill available job positions. Vocational training in the province has suffered from long-term neglect and consequently has not been responsive to private sector demand for skills.

The goal of the Youth Employment Pilot Programme was to help young Iraqis in Basra find jobs by equipping them with the right sets of skills. The program was also designed to benefit the private sector and contribute to the region’s economic growth by providing businesses with affordable labour and by building skills lacking in the local market. Lowering youth unemployment was also seen as a way to reduce the likelihood of young people becoming involved in organised crime and the insurgency.


Coffey utilised the following approaches to address the issue of youth unemployment and the lack of vocational skills.

Market-led vocational training – Coffey identified businesses that would be receptive to hiring young trainees. We then placed trainees on two-month vocational training courses at government colleges, and during training matched them to local businesses for 10 month work placements.

Cooperation with government – Coffey worked with the Iraqi Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA) to strengthen its capacity to provide quality, practical vocational skills training. We also organised forums which enabled employers and business associations to provide input into the content and scope of MOLSA’s training curricula.

Build sustainable relationships – We recognised that building effective and sustainable relationships between MOLSA and local businesses would be key to the success of this program and other similar programs in the future. We also worked to improve communication between government and the oil and gas sector, a key growth industry, and thus job provider, in the region.


Despite operating in a tough security and economic climate, the program achieved a number of commendable results:

  • 399 young people completed a year-long training program
  • 227 of the trainees (57%) secured permanent paid employment afterwards
  • 100% of trainees stated that the on-the-job training programs made a valuable contribution to their employment skills
  • 92% of employers stated that the government training programs made a valuable contribution to trainee skills