The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a new project to train hundreds of instructors and students to prepare youth for employment in the Lower Mekong countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.  The USAID Connecting the Mekong Through Education and Training project, to be implemented by the Education Development Center, Inc., focuses on training university students and graduates in specific fields, namely science, technology, engineering, mathematics, accounting and tourism, so that they can develop the skills needed to secure employment in the region.

“USAID is pleased to help bridge the gap between the private sector and post-secondary schools to increase the numbers of youth with the right skills to meet the demands of local employers and help move their countries forward,” said Michael Yates, Director of USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia.

The new project is part of a broader range of programs and engagements under U.S. President Barack Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) that were announced during a November 14 town hall meeting with 400 youth in Myanmar.

YSEALI is the President’s signature initiative to strengthen leadership development across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), deepen engagement with young leaders on key regional and global challenges, and strengthen people-to-people ties between the United States and Southeast Asia.

By working closely with the private sector, universities and vocational centers in the Lower Mekong, the project identifies specific industries and skills in high demand and develops customized curricula to address that demand. Instructors then use modern methods of complementing online learning with classes conducted in person.

The new project helps the Lower Mekong countries take steps to build a workforce that can close the development gap in ASEAN and take advantage of the benefits under the ASEAN Economic Community which formally comes into being in 2015.  With USAID support, these young workers will also share their knowledge and training with their colleagues across the region.

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