Youth Skills Gap
On July 15, the U.N. celebrated World Youth Skills Day. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for sustained investment in youth skills to help achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Across the world, a huge generation of young people is entering the workforce.

Unfortunately, many of them lack the skills necessary to have successful and engaging careers or even to be gainfully employed. Those aged 15-24 make up 40% of those unemployed worldwide, even though they only make up 18% of the global population. Many of those who are lucky enough to be employed are working jobs that provide little in the way of remuneration or protection.

The inability of young people to find good jobs is a major contributor to continuing poverty. This poverty, in turn, plays a powerful role in breeding both localized violence and global extremism. Addressing this situation calls for many responses, one of which is attacking the global youth skills gap.

In today’s economy, digital and communicative skills are in demand but schooling, especially in poorer countries, often emphasizes traditional skills, meaning that educational models that may have been successful in the past are in danger of becoming outmoded. According to a survey from the Asian Development Bank, communicative and language skills are seen as being most valuable. More broadly, in many places, there is a significant mismatch between the skills needed for work and the skills that people have.

Fortunately, there are many steps that can be taken to address the youth skills gap head-on. According to the World Economic Forum, social and emotional learning (SEL) provides children with the framework they need to adapt to a wide array of situations in their future careers. Training children to adapt to different situations, rather than over-focusing on specific skills that may or may not be useful, increases their readiness to participate in a wide range of careers.

The World Bank has sought to address the issues of the youth skills gap and youth unemployment head-on through a variety of individual programs. From the Caribbean to South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa, these programs have helped increase employment and provided youth with skills of lasting value.

Efforts to improve the effectiveness of education, direct job training projects and job-search assistance are just a sampling of the work being done to bridge the gap.

Like so many contributors to global poverty, the youth skills gap is anything but an intractable problem. Rather, with the concerted effort of individuals, governments, businesses and multilateral organizations it can become less and less of an obstacle to shared prosperity.

Jonathan Hall-Eastman

Photo: Flickr