Every year, in July, the world celebrates, among other things, the World Youth Skills Day. This year the UN leaders got together to discuss how to improve youth employment rate amidst and post-pandemic. (Image credit: from unesco.org)
The UN holds the World Youth Skills Day every year with the goal of finding solutions to improve the employment rate among young people (people between the age of 15 and 24). Last held on July 15th, 2020. It is important to note first that about 25% of the world workforce is made of young people, with 90% of them being born in developing countries. Although every generation experiences a certain degree of youth unemployment, this year, we have to factor in rapid technological advances and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy and politics of most countries. After all, 1 out of 6 young people lost their job because of the pandemic while the ones who are still working lost almost a quarter of their hours.
The theme for this year’s World Youth Skills Day was “Skills for a Resilient Youth.” For the youth to be more resilient, they need the right tools to both get and stay employed. The discussions started with the NEET number: Number of young people not in Education, Employment or Training, and noticed the number has been on the rise and is expected to reach 273 million by 2021, from the 259 million it was in 2016; mainly due to a lack of technical skills among today’s youth. This can be hard to believe if you are reading this article because it means that you can read, own a computer and have access to the internet. However, not every child around the world or even in the US has access to quality education. According to the UN statistics, about 200 million young people leave school without the skills required to thrive; and one solution could be the UN’s TVET program (Technical and Vocational Education and Training), a program supposed to equip young people with the necessary skills to thrive in the current world. However, the program is not accessible for all, especially young people living in remote and barely populated areas. You can imagine then how hard it was for those kids to keep learning during the lockdown when all schools and universities moved their classes to an online setting. Another reason younger people lack skills is that technology is advancing fast, and unless employers are willing to invest in the training of their employees, it is hard for said employees to keep their jobs.
For anyone who was paying attention, the pandemic has changed society’s needs to the extent that Microsoft’s President, Brad Smith, believes that the technology industry will see 149 million new jobs created within the next 5 years. Anyone who was paying attention noticed that besides healthcare jobs, jobs like software development or data analysis survived the lockdown. In addition, jobs that were not technology-centered turned to technology to survive. For example, retail stores increased their online presence. Moving forward, until we find a vaccine, every contributor to the economy will need to learn how to incorporate technology in their daily operations or improve the technology they are already using. Either way, the younger workers will need to be equipped with the right knowledge to adapt to those changes. Schools will need to review their curriculum and give more priorities to technical skills, and companies will need to be comfortable with the on-going training of their employees since technology is evolving at a fast pace.
Another way technology will force young people to be resilient is through the improvement of the quality of life. With technology solving many health challenges, humans are likely to live longer. Having longer lifespans means more time to learn many different skills, which in turn means that we won’t be able to learn everything in school and will have to learn to reinvent ourselves as we learn additional skills. But it also means developing patience will be key to survival. And that skill, of course, can only be taught by life itself.
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