After caring for her mother at home, Wafaa Mokhlis takes a one-hour bus ride to an internship in Casablanca, Morocco. She hopes it will lead to a career in civil engineering. The 20-year-old sees herself someday in a hard hat, supervising crews on a construction site.

“Many young women like me, who were drawn to certain construction sectors such as painting and fitting-finishing, are more than ever determined to conquer other construction sectors, especially those considered too rough for women,” Wafaa said. She is among students at the Specialized Institute of Building in Casablanca, one of 15 vocational training centres participating in programs financed, in part, by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency dedicated to growing economies.

A $460 million agreement between Morocco and the MCC in 2015 aims to boost employment among youth and women through training. Only 21% of Moroccan women are in the labour force, while youth unemployment is 32%, according to the MCC.

The 15 vocational training centres work with the private sector to identify necessary skills and then provide training to students that matches employers’ needs. One centre focuses on training in bakery and pastry arts, while another focuses on tourism.

More than 1,900 Moroccans have found jobs through the program. When Aziza Ez Zouyny finished school, she had difficulty finding work near her home in central Morocco. She moved to Tangier in search of better prospects.

After a four-year search, she was still looking for work. Ez Zouyny began attending sessions at a vocational centre, where she learned skills such as handling an interview, which helped her land a job in 2022. “I learned how to define my goals, how to communicate in a positive way, and how to manage teamwork, a skill all young people should have,” she said.