USAID Mission Director Reed Aeschliman symbolically handed over the keys of a Career Bus today to Vocational Training Authority’s (VTA’s) Chairman Eranga Basnayake. On its inaugural, island-wide journey, the VTA’s Career Bus, converted with support from the U.S. government’s Agency for International Development (USAID), reached more than 2,600 youth from 21 villages in six districts to provide professional career testing and guidance to youth in Sri Lanka’s most rural districts, from Dondra at the southern tip to Point Pedro in the north.

“Our aim is to see Sri Lanka’s rural youth receive career guidance that leads to employment,” said USAID Mission Director Reed Aeschliman. “We look forward to continuing our work with VTA to help every Sri Lankan youth find their dream job and learn the right skills for that job,” he stated.

The VTA supplied the bus and worked closely with USAID’s youth employment and entrepreneurship project, YouLead, to convert it into a mobile career guidance unit. USAID provided mobile broadband, tablets for online career assessments, and a COVID-safe sanitation chamber on the bus. Together, the VTA and USAID’s YouLead project trained career guidance practitioners on the latest career guidance approaches and testing. Pizza Hut, Jetwing, John Keells, Nestlé, CareerMe, and Save the Children provided additional funding and support along the way to help youth find jobs.

U.S. Embassy Colombo Press Release
U.S. Embassy Colombo Press Release

“This is a great new concept,” said VTA Chairman Eranga Basnayake. “The response from both youth and parents has been fantastic. It is clearly filling a need. It is also encouraging to see the private sector supporting the bus. We intend to keep this bus on the road for many years and we could not have done it without help from USAID.”

In addition to providing career guidance to rural youth, the VTA will use the bus to raise awareness among parents about the changing nature of work and the types of careers available for young people with the right skills.

For A. H Madhavee Kethumali, a young woman from Dondra, it was a transformational experience. “I was skeptical of getting into a bus initially, wondering what I could ever learn from it. Going inside, I was amazed at how they had used technology to help us choose our own career paths. The counselors were very supportive and showed us the importance of setting goals and targets for our careers. I hope every youth in Sri Lanka will have an opportunity to board the career bus and receive this same experience.”

USAID’s YouLead project is an $18 million, 7-year program implemented by IESC to improve technical and vocational education and training, create a more skilled workforce, and link youth to more productive careers. This is one component of the longstanding partnership between the American and Sri Lankan people to support self-reliance and promote a healthy, educated, and employed population. To find out more about USAID’s work, please see website.