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The United Nations (UN) has declared that the theme for this year’s World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) is “Skilling teachers, trainers and youth for a transformative future”. This choice reflects the acknowledgement that, in a rapidly evolving and dynamic world, it is crucial to continuously address the ever-changing needs of young individuals in preparing them for the future. Since its establishment by the UN General Assembly in 2014, World Youth Skills Day has served as a platform for developing strategies to equip young people with sustainable skills for employment and entrepreneurship, fostering global dialogue on youth engagement within the global economy. But what does the future look like for young people, why is WYSD even important and what can WYSD do to enable the upskilling of young people?
Currently, there are approximately 2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 30 worldwide, representing almost one-third of the global population. Unfortunately, young people are often disproportionately affected by the numerous challenges that the world faces. One of the most pressing challenges facing young individuals today is climate change. As inheritors of an increasingly fragile planet, we are deeply affected by the consequences of environmental degradation. Rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and ecosystem degradation threaten the livelihoods, homes, and futures of young people. Additionally, youth unemployment rates create a sense of frustration and disenchantment, undermining our ability to contribute to society and attain economic independence. Furthermore, mental health challenges also disproportionately affect young people. Youth suicide rates, self-harm, and mental health disorders are significant concerns worldwide. The pressures of academic expectations, social media, and societal norms can contribute to stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. In addition to these significant issues, young people are often expected to adapt to rapidly evolving technological advancements, a shifting job market, and the effects of globalisation.
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As the world recovers from the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis of confidence means young people today are entering the labour market with more years of education and qualifications than previous generations—yet feeling unprepared for the world of work.
By providing appropriate training and upskilling opportunities, we have tremendous potential to engage young people in labour markets and the global economy through a sustainable and agile approach. Despite our enormous potential, young people have historically faced vulnerability within the global economy, experiencing high rates of unemployment. However, young individuals possess a unique capacity to rapidly acquire and enhance skills, making us a valuable asset. The key to being able to unlock this, however, is opportunities. WYSD serves as a catalyst for creating these opportunities, emphasising the importance of skill development and education, and bridging the gap between young people and available resources, empowering us to become active contributors to society and the economy.
By emphasising the realisation of vocational training programmes, accessible training options, and the development of both hard and soft skills, we can equip young individuals with the tools they need to succeed in the job market.
WYSD dialogue must prioritise educational opportunities as a central facet for developing practical solutions to enhance youth employability and productivity. By emphasising the realisation of vocational training programmes, accessible training options, and the development of both hard and soft skills, we can equip young individuals with the tools they need to succeed in the job market. Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure that these opportunities extend to vulnerable and disadvantaged youth by providing scholarships and access to quality education.
Vocational training plays a pivotal role in preparing young people for the workforce. By offering specialised training programmes, tailored to meet the needs of specific industries, we can bridge the skills gap and align education with employment demands. Vocational training equips young individuals with the practical skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their chosen fields, ensuring a smoother transition from education to the labour market. Accessibility to training is another critical aspect to consider. Educational opportunities should be inclusive and accessible to all young people, regardless of their socioeconomic background, gender, or geographical location. Removing barriers, such as financial constraints and limited resources, is essential in providing equal opportunities for skill development. Scholarships and financial aid programmes can help alleviate the burden of educational expenses and open doors for those who may otherwise face difficulties in pursuing further education or training.
In addition to technical skills, the development of soft skills is equally important. Soft skills, such as communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and adaptability, are often highly sought after by employers. WYSD dialogue should emphasise the importance of integrating soft skills training into educational curricula. By equipping young individuals with a well-rounded skill set, we enhance their employability and their ability to navigate the evolving job market successfully.
To ensure fairness and support young individuals during these transitional phases, internships and apprenticeships should be remunerated, providing financial stability, and acknowledging their contributions.
Transitioning into the labour market can be a daunting process for young people. Internships and apprenticeships provide invaluable hands-on experience, allowing young individuals to apply their skills in real-world settings. To ensure fairness and support young individuals during these transitional phases, internships and apprenticeships should be remunerated, providing financial stability, and acknowledging their contributions.
Furthermore, it is crucial to consider the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged youth. These individuals often face additional barriers to accessing education and employment opportunities. Scholarships and targeted programs should be established to specifically support vulnerable youth, empowering them to overcome societal barriers and unlock their potential.
Learn more about the OECD work on Youth employment and social policies
Successful engagement of young people in the labour market and society is crucial not only for their own personal economic prospects and well-being, but also for overall economic growth and social cohesion. Investing in youth is therefore a policy priority for the OECD. Through adequate skills, employment, social and broader policy settings, young people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and maintain confidence in their future prospects.