Australian Volunteers for International Development share their experience at the Manila Solve-a-thon

The innovationXchange recently partnered with MIT SOLVE and The Atlassian Foundation on a global challenge to find solutions to support disadvantaged youth to develop the skills they need for the workforce of the future. Solve-a-thons have already been held in 9 locations across the Indo-Pacific region, with the aim of workshopping solutions to the problem statement, “How can disadvantaged youth learn the skills they need to prepare them for the workforce of the future and thrive in the 21st century?” Rachel and Comila are in the Philippines on long-term volunteer assignments as part of the Australian Government’s Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program. They recently participated in the Solve-a-thon in Manila.

Rachel and Comila, Australian Volunteers for International Development

As part of the Australian Government’s Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, we’re volunteering with the Palawan Conservation Corps (PCC) in The Philippines. PCC is a local environmental NGO that works to improve the lives of local communities through environmental restoration, rural community development and alternative livelihood projects. Their key focus is the out-of-school youth program. For six months each year, approximately 25 students from low socio-economic backgrounds learn personal development skills and undergo practical vocational skills training.

Once the students graduate from the program they are skilled up and ready to enter the workforce! However, we have noticed a disconnect between the students and potential local employers. Only approximately half of the students gain full-time employment once they graduate. We want to help ensure all graduates have the opportunity to find full-time work, so when we found out about The Youth, Skills & the Workforce of the Future Solve-a-thon we knew it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.

The SOLVE challenge is a partnership between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) SOLVE initiative and the Atlassian Foundation. SOLVE aims to connect innovators and community leaders with resources to solve global challenges.

We applied for the Youth, Skills & the Workforce of the Future challenge. Our solution is to create an online platform connecting the students to employment opportunities. The platform will also foster mentoring relationships and provide online learning for the students. The platform will be available to our alumni database, which includes over 400 graduates. Our application was successful in the first round and on Friday 7 July, we participated in The Youth, Skills & Workforce of the Future SOLVE-A-THON in Manila.

Children at the Palawan Conservation Corps (PCC) in The Philippines.

As a result of our volunteer work with PCC, we’re very aware of the need to prepare disadvantaged youth for the workforce of the future.

Over the past few weeks we have been teaching some of the “life skills” classes to the students including communication and interpersonal skills, critical thinking, self-awareness and strategies to cope with new environments.

The students are aged between 15 and 27 years old and have a range of different educational levels. Some have completed high school, while others haven’t completed elementary school. All of them are eager to learn and they dream of full-time employment once they complete the program, which otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

The program relies heavily on grants and sponsorship for funding. The facilities and technology are very basic; recently PCC received a donation of computers so the students can learn computer literacy skills and create their own resumes – before this some of the students had never used a computer.

The SOLVE-A-THON’s aim was to develop an innovative solution that empowers disadvantaged youth in the Indo-Pacific region to gain employment. Solve believe no one organisation, sector or industry can solve these challenges alone, however as a team we can all contribute and solve them together! We workshopped our solution with contributors from DFAT and Atlassian and then pitched it to the panel of judges. We received positive feedback and encouragement from the judges so we will resubmit our refined solution for the next selection round. If successful we will head to New York in September to pitch our idea during the UN General Assembly.

For more information, please visit the Palawan Conservation Corps on Facebook, or you can learn more about the SOLVE MIT Challenge on their website or Twitter.

About the authors

Rachel is an Australian volunteer at Palawan Conservation Corps (PCC) in the Philippines, assisting with their marketing and communications needs. She has previously spent three years working in business development. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Marketing and Event Management.

Comila is also an Australian volunteer at Palawan Conservation Corps (PCC) in the Philippines. Her role is to help PCC deliver their community development and environment protection projects. Prior to joining PCC, Comila evaluated environmental and social impact assessments for the Queensland Government. She holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development.

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