The creation of jobs for young people may now be an even greater challenge than before the pandemic hit, with competition for positions being all the more fierce once economic activity resumes. In light of the enormous shock that COVID-19 has had on our economic system, how can we think differently about what is required to ensure that young people have the right skills for the job and that more employment opportunities are created?
“There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 today – the world’s largest ever group of young people. Every month, 10 million reach working age – and they’re finding that yesterday’s skills no longer match today’s job market.”1
These words from UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore point to a growing crisis for an entire generation of young people. Today, 71 million youth are unemployed and 150 million young people are working, but living on less than US$3 a day. In a survey of 10,000 young people across 160 countries, the message from young people was clear: 35 per cent of respondents saw job opportunities as the most urgent priority for action and 26 per cent demanded better education. A full 63 per cent agreed that business leaders must do more to help young people succeed in our globalised world.22 At the same time, the world of work is shifting. Automation and technology offer both opportunities and threats to entry-level jobs and new job roles are emerging. By one estimate, 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will work in completely new job types that do not yet exist.2 In this uncertain environment, it is crucial – for our young people, and for the credibility of a globalised economic system – that the aspirations of this generation for good quality education and work are met.
Having the right skills to run your own business or be ready for the jobs market is key to success, but traditional education is only able to go so far in delivering and consolidating these skills for young people. Well-established businesses have an essential role to play in providing opportunities for job- shadowing, mentoring, well-structured internships and partnerships with educational institutions.
Existing businesses and potential investors are already supporting educators to upskill young people for the future of jobs, but often this is piecemeal and relies too heavily on future-focused, agile educators. Is there now the opportunity for educators, employers and investors to deepen their collaboration and double down on their impact in educating young people? Could cross- sector collaborations and advocacy partnerships re-shape the system helping more young people to get the skills they need to succeed and prosper?
An important component of this is the role that organisations play in providing paid work placements, internships and apprenticeships. How can more opportunities be made available to young people that are relevant and accessible and what role can the private sector play in delivering these?
Inclusion of women in education and skills-development initiatives needs to be given special attention to address existing gaps. A study conducted in rural Egypt looked at the impact of large-scale training and empowerment interventions for 4,500 women in 30 villages in the region.3 The intervention provided a combination of life skills, core business skills, vocational training and guidance on how to start a business. It resulted in a significant impact on the labour market, economic aspiration and business knowledge of the young women. It also showed that interventions targeted at women work best when they are delivered according to a gender-sensitive design that eliminates barriers to women’s participation, including in planning the outreach projects, training spaces, flexible timing of classes and providing mentoring by local women. Maternity considerations and childcare options were recommended as part of training in the future.
Standard Chartered’s flagship education programme, Goal, under the company’s Futuremakers initiative, aims to tackle inequality and promote economic inclusion. Goal uses sport, play and life skills education to transform the lives of adolescent girls from 12 to 18 years of age, in 24 countries around the world.4 A recent report evaluating the impact of this programme showed an overall positive effect on self-confidence, communication skills, ability to express self in public, standing up to violence and participation in family decision-making. It also had an impact on increasing the financial knowledge and savings behaviour of the young women. Studies like this are a useful example to understand what works and to identify where and how programmes can be further scaled and integrated for impact.
Young people will not only become employees, but will also be job creators through their own enterprises now or in the future. There is an opportunity to link young entrepreneurs with mentors, business opportunities and learning to equip them to grow their own ventures. This type of initiative not only impacts on the young people who receive training, but also catalyses further employment creation as the young entrepreneurs grow their organisations and act as role models to inspire others.
THE COVID-19 EFFECT
The topic of skills and jobs for young people is extremely timely.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added significant pressure to unemployment figures and has had a particularly detrimental effect on the informal economy and small enterprises around the world. The ILO estimates that close to 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy (the most vulnerable in the labour market) have an immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed and 436 million enterprises face high risk of serious disruption.5 Lockdown conditions worldwide have stopped informal businesses – many of them run by young people – in their tracks, seriously damaging people’s capacity to earn a living.
The consequences are severe. As Guy Ryder, Director-General of the ILO noted: “For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. […] As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent.”5
In the light of this crisis, developing skills and creating quality jobs for young people becomes an urgent priority for ensuring the future stability of society, reducing poverty and providing some means of survival for millions around the world. The creation of jobs for young people may now be an even greater challenge than before the pandemic hit, with competition for positions being all the more fierce once economic activity resumes. In light of the enormous shock that COVID-19 has had on our economic system, how can we think differently about what is required to ensure that young people have the right skills for the job and that more employment opportunities are created?
The webinar discussion on this topic will bring together: young people who are passionate about their skills; businesses who understand what it takes to be sustainably successful and weather difficult storms; individuals who have experienced the world of entrepreneurship – who have tried, failed and tried again; and educators who have expertise on how we learn best. The webinar will focus on gaining a deep understanding of the skills and jobs of the future and what concrete actions are needed to take us there.
This session forms part of Business Fights Poverty Online 2020 – a week of conversation, connection and collaboration. To find out more, get your free ticket and join live sessions, please click here.
1 UNICEF. 2019. Young people to Davos leaders: more jobs, better education. https://www.unicef.org.uk/press-releases/ young-people-to-davos-leaders-more-jobs-better-education/
2 WEF. 2016. The Future of Jobs and Skills.https://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016/chapter-1-the- future-of-jobs-and-skills/
3 International Labor Organization. 2017. IMPACT BRIEF: Empowering Young Women through Business and Vocational Training: Evidence from Rural Upper Egypt. https://www.ilo.org/ employment/areas/youth-employment/WCMS_575931/lang–en/ index.htm
4 Standard Chartered. Goal programme. https://www.sc.com/ en/sustainability/investing-in-communities/goal/
5 International Labor Organization. 2020. ILO: As job losses escalate, nearly half of global workforce at risk of losing liveli- hoods. https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/ WCMS_743036/lang–en/index.htm