The OECD Forum Network is a space for experts and thought leaders—from around the world and all parts of society—to exchange expertise and perspectives across sectors.
As part of an OECD Forum series, the virtual event The School-to-Work Transition will take place from 1430–1600 CET on 8 February 2023. Register your place now!
The world of work is rapidly changing. Mega-trends such as digitalisation, green transition and population ageing have a profound effect on the skills required to acquire and excel in jobs. To seize the benefits of these trends, employers, employees and education institutions will need to prepare for and adapt to the changing labour market.
Navigating the transition from school-to-work at a time when the demands and necessary skills of the workplace are quickly transforming presents young people with a significant challenge. Young people’s transition from schooling to the world of work is fraught with many difficulties and marked by low-paying, low- status and unstable work. Job insecurity is a common cause for concern among young people.
Young people today embark on the transition from school to work with more years of education and qualification than previous generations, yet many employers say they struggle to find young people with the skills they need.
Young people have been particularly hard hit by the labour market implications of COVID-19. While employment prospects swiftly recovered, notably thanks to the high level of economic stimulus, the 2022 OECD Employment Outlook mentions that the average employment rate for young people was still lower than before the pandemic in more than half of all OECD countries. The ILO also reports that young peoples’ unemployment rate is three times that of adults.
Young people today embark on the transition from school-to-work with more years of education and qualification than previous generations, yet many employers say they struggle to find young people with the skills they need. School curricula may still take a quite theoretical approach to learning that leaves students unprepared for the various types of professional, transversal, soft and digital skills needed in the labour market of today. The lack of direct bridges to the world of work also thwarts social mobility, as internships and hands-on work experiences remain a privilege of the wealthy and the well-connected.
In other words, there is a need for better guidance from employers and education institutions to help align young people’s career motivations and skill sets to the demands of the labour market.
Initiatives that can help smooth the school-to-work transition, such as work-based learning programmes and apprenticeship opportunities, have been heavily disrupted due to COVID-19. The compounding effect of the lack of opportunities and support in making the transition for young people during their early career experience can have lasting ‘scarring’ effects on their mental health, future careers and earning potential.
Education institutions, employers and governments can play a greater role in preventing this scarring effect by supporting young entrants to the workforce. To that end, the OECD Recommendation on Creating Better Opportunities for Young People was adopted in June 2022. The Recommendation outlines how countries can implement government-wide strategies to support young people, including through skills, education, employment, social and public governance policies. The Recommendation calls for increased support for young people of all backgrounds to have access to competencies required to navigate the transition from education to a changing world of work and highlights the importance of equipping young people with digital skills and training to advance in both digital and green jobs.
Of a survey of 5,000 young people (19–24) across six OECD countries...only 40% believe their highest-level degree has prepared them adequately for employment.
In 2021, the OECD Forum launched a multi-stakeholder initiative, the OECD Forum Engagement Group on the Future of Work, to help drive and support more ambitious, effective, and co-ordinated action on a future of work that benefits all. In October 2021, the Group held a workshop with OECD Youth Advisory Board ("Youthwise") and OECD Senior Policy Analyst, Anthony Mann, to discuss both real-life perspectives and current leading discourse on career guidance. The workshop revealed that young people were facing difficulties in finding internship opportunities, and entry-level positions, translating their pre-existing skills to employable traits, and aligning their education or training to the demands of employers. Based on these findings, the Forum Engagement Group member Qualtrics conducted a survey of 5,000 young people (19-24) across six OECD countries; Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The findings shed light on the significant negative impact that COVID-19 has had on the transition into employment, and other findings such as that only 40% of young people believe their highest-level degree has prepared them adequately for employment. The survey also highlights some of the socio-economic issues that further hamper access to the labour market related to access to transport, affordable housing, and healthcare.
This OECD Forum Virtual Event will draw on these learnings to discuss with leading experts and stakeholders what can be done to smooth the school-to-work transition for young people and help them realise their full potential in the new world of work.