Aadil Sulaiman (he/him), Director of Next Generation Jobs Initiative. Credit: Root Capital.
Today is International Youth Day, a day designated by the United Nations to celebrate the potential of youth as partners in our global society. The global youth population currently stands at 1.8 billion—the largest in history—with 88% living in developing countries. Youth are essential to the future of rural communities, particularly in developing countries, where they serve as an indispensable local talent pool for agricultural enterprises with aging workforces.
Root Capital is committed to harnessing the power of youth in the agricultural sector and advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals through our four impact pathways. Our Next Generation Jobs impact pathway is dedicated to catalyzing the potential of youth in rural communities—we do this by encouraging our agricultural enterprise clients to invest in and train the next generation of agricultural leaders.
This International Youth Day, we sat down with Aadil Sulaiman (he/him), Root Capital’s new Director of the Next Generation Jobs Initiative, to learn more about his background and role at Root Capital, as well as his plans for the Next Generations Jobs impact pathway.
Aadil has a long career in youth empowerment and youth workforce development. Most recently, he served as the Director of Strategic Growth at Year Up. We hope you’ll join us in welcoming Aadil to our team.
What drew you to Root Capital?
In honor of International Youth Day, I look back to my own youth as an undergraduate at Northeastern University over a decade ago! At that time Root Capital had one of the most interesting internship opportunities available: working as an analyst on the forefront of credit for the “missing middle” in agriculture. The transformational aspects of Root's financing and advisory services represented a model for deep, sustainable, and long-lasting impact in a global context. While I wasn't able to join Root at the time, it did pique my interest in a way that stayed with me throughout my early career. I admired the work from afar and always wondered: What were other areas where the global market was lacking and where an additional layer of support could be needed? Recently, as I looked for new roles that harnessed my youth training and employment experience, the Next Generation Jobs Director came into focus.
Why is the Next Generation Jobs impact pathway important to Root Capital's mission and overall strategy?
Our Next Generation Jobs pathway sits at the epicenter of many different rising challenges for our clients and for Root Capital, and therefore also represents an opportunity to build long-term resilience. With an aging global farmer population, climate change, and increasing urbanization on the horizon, determining how we train, include, and support the next generation of work will have a ripple effect of impact across our work. Within this pathway, we have the opportunity to build sustainable solutions in rural areas in ways that have never been done before. At the end of this road lie stronger and more resilient communities that include and empower youth to support and lead us into a more prosperous, adaptable, and inclusive future.
What will you be doing as the Director of Next Generation Jobs?
I will be working with our incredible team around the world to bring Root Capital's youth strategy to a place of alignment and harmony with our other pathways. I will also refine our long-term vision around Root Capital's contribution to Next Generation Jobs. As we review our talent partnerships, resilience grants, and advisory work, we will be asking ourselves hard questions about the replicability and opportunity for greater impact within each area. My role will be to develop those questions, answer them to the best of our ability, and support Root Capital's internal infrastructure to implement the best practices those questions bring us to, while also exploring what's next for us within this strategy.
What are you most excited to begin working on?
As I meet with more and more leaders in the international youth development space, one thing has become increasingly clear: employment for rural youth and in rural communities remains a challenge. There is no clear handbook and no fool-proof model to follow. We have an incredible opportunity to lead and support leaders in this area to establish meaningful opportunities and systems change. No matter how large or how small, the opportunity to develop sustainable impact within this environment has me pumped up to show up for work each day.
What unique skills or perspectives do you bring to the table?
I often find myself in spaces of programmatic innovation and refinement with a focus on inclusion and participatory solution development. Having worked in the United States’ domestic workforce development space for the duration of my career, I believe there is a tremendous opportunity to combine robust learnings from well-developed youth training and employment solutions in the United States with Root Capital's client-centered knowledge base abroad. I am beyond excited to utilize my experience in meeting organizational objectives, client needs, and youth empowerment goals to guide our Next Generation Jobs strategy.
What else should we know about you?
I am a proud Bostonian and Pakistani, and I'm an advocate for others to be their proud selves in all aspects of work and life. I believe in building community across and through lines of difference and elevating diversity of background and thought to help broach difficult topics and seek solutions. That is what first brought me to be a career coach and kick-off my career in youth workforce development. I'm also not shy to share about my historical, board gaming, or music interests, and you will likely hear me use a metaphor or two from these interests to help spell out a particular challenge or strategy.
About the Author
Kelly Acheson is the Manager of Content Development and Communications at Root Capital.