Manila-On February 15, the United States government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), awarded P8 million ($142,475) in grants to four Philippine higher education institutions working on innovative programs that improve the lives of Filipino out-of-school youth.

Administered through USAID’s Opportunity 2.0 program, the ASPIRE (Advance and Support Philippine-International Academic Relations for Out-of-School Youth Development) grant, valued at P2.5 million ($44,643) each, facilitates partnerships between local and U.S. institutions on out-of-school youth advancement.

De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, an ASPIRE awardee, will partner with Gallaudet University in Washington D.C to enhance training and higher education access for deaf out-of-school youth. Another ASPIRE awardee, Ferndale College in Zamboanga City, will work with Adams State University in Colorado on developing learning modules designed to engage out-of-school youth in addressing food security issues in their communities.

“Out-of-school youth deserve an equal opportunity to define the kind of life they want to live,” USAID Philippines Mission Director Ryan Washburn said. “These new grants will help create a positive environment for youth by tapping the creativity, resources, and expertise of Philippine and U.S. higher education institutions.”

Additionally, USAID awarded a P1.5-million ($26,786) GAIN (Government-Academe-Industry Collaborative) grant to Quezon City University, which would allow the extension of their executive training course to local government officials in Pasig City and Angeles City in Pampanga. The executive course provides lessons on leadership and creating effective programs for out-of-school youth.

“Through the grant, Quezon City University is able to empower key decision makers on co-creating and implementing meaningful programs supported by their learnings through the expanded Executive Leadership course in their respective communities. We are hopeful that through the program, more leaders will be equipped with the knowledge and means to support out-of-school youth and create an inclusive environment for them,” Quezon City Councilor Aly Medalla said.

Cebu City’s School of Knowledge for Industrial Labor, Leadership, and Service, Inc. (SKILLS), another recipient of the GAIN grant, will partner with the Technical Vocational Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the private sector to establish an “industry certification process” for multi-skilled out-of-school youth in the construction industry.

“The grant is valuable to SKILLS as it would enable us to implement activities that provide sustainable employment to the youth while addressing the perennial challenges in the construction industry, such as shortage of skills and negative perception on construction jobs,” SKILLS Executive Director Jessie Cubijano said.

USAID’s Opportunity 2.0 program works with local and international partners across 15 cities in the Philippines to improve the lives of out-of-school youth through further education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The project has impacted 70,000 youth through TESDA technical-vocational programs and through the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System. (PR)