Our youth make up a bulk of the world’s population today with many countries and continents having a younger population as compared to an ageing one. Today, there are about 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years, who account for 18 per cent of the global population.
Rising youth unemployment is one of the most significant problems facing economies and societies in today’s world, for developed and developing countries alike. At least 475 million new jobs need to be created over the next decade to absorb the 73 million youth currently unemployed and the 40 million new annual entrants to the labour market. At the same time, OECD surveys suggest that both employers and youth consider that many graduates are ill-prepared for the world of work.
Attaining decent work is a significant challenge. In many countries, the informal sector and traditional rural sector remains a major source of employment. The number of workers in vulnerable employment currently stands at 1.44 billion worldwide. Workers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia account for more than half this number, with three out of four workers in these regions subject to vulnerable employment conditions.
In November 2014, the United Nations, at its General Assembly, declared 15 July as World Youth Skills Day or WYSD. The aim of WYSD is to recognize the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship, and to highlight the crucial role of skilled youth in addressing current and future global challenges. Today’s WYSD takes places in a very challenging world. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have led to the worldwide closure of technical and vocational education and training or TVET institutions, threatening the continuity of skills development. UNESCO currently estimates that nearly 70% of the world’s learners are affected by school closures across education levels. Respondents to a survey of TVET institutions, jointly collected by UNESCO, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank, reported that distance training has become the most common way of imparting skills, with considerable difficulties regarding, among others, curricula adaptation, trainee and trainer preparedness, connectivity, or assessment and certification processes.
Even before the current panademic, young people were almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs, greater labor market inequalities, and longer and more insecure school-to-work transitions. In addition, women are more likely to be underemployed and under-paid, and to undertake part-time jobs or work under temporary contracts.
The international community has set an ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which calls for an integrated approach to development which recognises that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions; combating inequality within and among countries; preserving the planet; creating inclusive and sustainable economic growth; achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men; and ensuring full gender equality and fostering social inclusion, are interdependent.
Education and training are central to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. The vision of the Incheon Declaration: Education 2030 is fully captured by Sustainable Development Goal 4 which says, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Education 2030 devotes considerable attention to technical and vocational skills development, specifically regarding access to affordable quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET); the acquisition of technical and vocational skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship; the elimination of gender disparity and ensuring access for the vulnerable. In this context, TVET is expected to address the multiple demands of an economic, social and environmental nature by helping youth and adults develop the skills they need for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship, promoting equitable, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and supporting transitions to green economies and environmental sustainability.
TVET can equip youth with the skills required to access the world of work, including skills for self-employment. TVET can also improve responsiveness to changing skill-demands by companies and communities, increase productivity and increase wage levels. TVET can reduce access barriers to the world of work, for example through work-based learning, and ensuring that skills gained are recognised and certified. TVET can also offer skills development opportunities for low-skilled people who are under- or unemployed, out of school youth and individuals not in education, employment and training (NEETs).
The active engagement of youth in sustainable development efforts is central to achieving sustainable, inclusive and stable societies by the target date, and to averting the worst threats and challenges to sustainable development, including the impacts of climate change, unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, conflict, and migration.
The theme of the 2020 World Youth Skills Day is ‘Learning to Learn for Life and Work’ because, in an ever-evolving world, today’s young people will need to learn new skills throughout their lifetime. Some estimates suggest 85 per cent of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet, meaning the single most important skill a young person can have is knowing how to acquire new skills.
Today, nurture the skills your child has, make them curious and eager to learn. It is only when they become a lifelong learner, will they learn the skills to learn new skills. Many of the skills needed to do a job or profession in the next decade are not yet invented today, so making a child a curious and eager learner is the best skill you can impart to them, one that will stand in good stead their whole life!