What can business do to help young people acquire the right skills to transition into good jobs?

Unemployment is a global problem, and young people are particularly badly affected.  Youth unemployment rates are twice as high as for older workers.  Around one third of global youth – over 620 million young people - are not in employment, education or training.  This represents an enormous lost opportunity and has serious long-term impacts not only for those young people but also for their societies and economies.  In countries where the population is getting younger there is an even more urgent need to create many more jobs for the growing number of young people needing decent work. It therefore comes as no surprise that accelerating youth employment is identified as a priority within the Sustainable Development Goals.


Youth unemployment is a complex problem with many underlying causes.  Among them is the widely recognised fact that many young people lack the right skills to help them transition out of education and into a good first job, or onto vocational training courses or further education. Companies wanting to grow into new markets and wishing to recruit locally report that they often struggle to find suitable candidates with the right skills. This skills gap comprises not only hard skills, ranging from basic from numeracy and literacy to specific technical skills; but also so-called soft skills and attributes. For the private sector, a skilled workforce is critical to productivity, innovation and growth.  Estimates suggest that globally up to 38% of employers cannot fill their vacancies due to a lack of the necessary skills.


This online discussion will focus on the following questions:


  1. What are the 21st century skills young people need to make a successful transition into good jobs? Are young people currently getting these skills? How does the situation differ between developed and developing countries, between cities and rural areas, between young men and young women?
  2. How can companies help young people to get ready for the world of work and to find good jobs? Who should they work with? Can you share examples of successful business-led programmes or innovative cross-sectoral / multi-stakeholder partnerships that help more young people acquire the right skills to find and keep decent work?
  3. How can involving young people in the design and delivery of skills programmes lead to better development solutions?


This discussion is part of a Challenge on Youth Employability with the UK’s Department for International Development, Pearson, Anglo American, Citi Foundation, Barclays and BRAC.  The Challenge focuses on what business can do to help more young people find and keep decent work by helping them develop the necessary skills to transition successfully into good jobs. Drawing on the experience of Challenge Supporters and the Business Fights Poverty community, we are developing a guide for business and those wanting to work with business that will gather together key ingredients for a successful private sector approach to youth skills development.    This online discussion will inform the development of the guide. 


Editor's Note:

Welcome to this online written discussion. To post comments you will need to sign in / sign up to Business Fights Poverty. A list of recent comments is shown in the right-hand side bar and will refresh every 5 minutes. To refresh more often, please click on the refresh icon in your browser or on the link below.

Views: 2488

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Thank you Panel. Let’s kick of straight away with our first question:

Q1: What are the 21st century skills young people need to make a successful transition into good jobs? Are young people currently getting these skills? How does the situation differ between developed and developing countries, between cities and rural areas, between young men and young women?

Hi – I am Kelly Trakalo. I head up the Learning Solutions group within Pearson Education’s Career Development and Employability division. Pearson is committed to creating solutions that make learners more employable and recently issued a social innovation challenge across all employees (globally) to identify new learning solutions targeted at low-income learners.  

When one talks about employability, one invariably discusses how the socio-economic situation of the locality is and how the partnerships between companies and governments are working the development or even the eradication of poverty and the creation of new jobs. In these relations the struggle and the The survival of young people for new opportunities are intense and time becomes their greatest obstacle. The need to create programs and actions of immediate impact is an emergency need. These actions serve as tools for transition and mobilization for a new economic moment.

Hello everyone, I am María Jesús Pérez, coordinator of the Business Against Poverty Observatory, created by 5 leading Spanish companies Telefonica, BBVA, La Caixa, ENDESA and SENER with the support of IESE Business School and The Boston Consulting Group. From the Business Against Poverty Observatory in Spain we are currently ending a research about what business can do to tackle youth unemployment and to fill the skills gap.

The world stands at the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A phrase coined by WEF Chairman, Klaus Schwab, it is a “technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.” Yet globally, our educational system is by-and-large unprepared for this dramatic change which will define the workforce of the future. Indeed, the quality and relevance of education many times results in a skills mismatch with employer needs. JA is one of the largest global NGOs dedicated to reversing this trend by delivering experiential learning programs in financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship.


Specifically, JA is focused on helping young people develop soft skills, “a combination of interpersonal people skillssocial skillscommunication skillscharacter traits, attitudes, career attributes and emotional intelligence.” Our model is also nimble and adaptable allowing us the ability to respond pedagogically to meet the needs of today’s employers. For example, JA is acutely aware that as the global economy grows more complex, youth that lack strong STEM skills combined with entrepreneurial competences will not be able to compete in the knowledge economy and employers will not be able to fill jobs to fuel their growth.


Additionally, delivery of these programs does differ whether the context is the developed or developing world. In the developed world, JA primarily delivers its programming in the classroom. Yet in the developing world, the JA model needs to meet young people wherever they may be, which many times is outside of school. This flexibility is especially important as the world works together to help address the growing refugee crisis, or reach existing rural populations. Our model must be able to adjust based on our audience, to ensure the curriculum is culturally relevant and meets the socio-economic needs of the youth we are trying to help.


There is a mix of technical and soft skills that can help position young people to make a successful transition into the labor market. At the Citi Foundation, we are committed to empowering young people, specifically those from low-income communities. More specifically, we fund and co-design programs with community organizations that are providing young people with access to technical and soft skills, and perhaps even more important, the networks and connections they need to make the transition successfully into the 21st century job market. Through our programming, we are investing in helping youth foster the interpersonal, social, critical thinking and problem-solving skillsets to develop the type of well-rounded individual that is equipped to make a successful transition into employment. 

McKinsey published in 2013 the report “Education to employment: Designing a system that works”  (mckinseyonsociety.com/education-to-employment) after surveying 8,000 education providers, youth, and employers across nine countries, focusing on the paths for skill development, with special attention to the mechanisms that connect education to employment.

In such report, they rank 12 key skills valued by companies for new hires: Work ethic, Team work, Oral communications, Hands-on training in discipline, Problem solving, Written communications, Creativity, Computer literacy, Theoretical training in discipline, Basic math,  Leadership. These are skills required for a successful transition between education and employment.

According to our research, in the case of vulnerable young skills such as respect, commitment, discipline, punctuality, learning capacity, confidence, are very relevant for a successful entry of young people into a job. 

Pearson completed a global internal project in 2015 around vocational employability. Looking across all different kinds of frameworks we created an internal framework that defines employability across four buckets: 1. Core Academic Competencies – this includes literacy and numeracy but also includes digital literacy; 2. Occupational Competencies (that support a particular discipline or career path – including credentials); 3. Personal and Social Capabilities (the so-called “soft-skills”) and 4. Career Transition Skills. All of these need to come together.

Pearson has focused much effort around personal and social capabilities. Identifying six categories: Critical & Creative Thinking; Communication - Oral & Written; Collaboration & Teamwork; Self-Management / Initiative and Mindset; Social Responsibility; and leadership.  (http://www.pearsoned.com/higher-education/products-and-services/ser...) .

Our research has been across students, academic institutions and employers and the answer we got was a resounding “no” young people are not consistently getting these types of skills. The 2015 Manpower global survey of talent shortage points to a number of reasons why employers have talent shortages but lack of specific technical skills and soft skills are key components of the global shortage. (http://www.manpowergroup.com/wps/wcm/connect/db23c560-08b6-485f-9bf...).

Young people everywhere benefit from good education, technical skills and the soft skills required to network, work in teams and communicate.  For the majority of youth in developing countries, basic education is a challenge, and even where education systems are improving, it may be too late for those beyond school age.  Even in developed countries, being young, by definition, indicates that experience and skills will be relatively lacking.  But another key point is that in developing countries, the best education and training in the world will not alter formal job prospects dramatically where the number of job seekers vastly outstrips the number of formal job opportunities. 

Hester le Roux said:

Thank you Panel. Let’s kick of straight away with our first question:

Q1: What are the 21st century skills young people need to make a successful transition into good jobs? Are young people currently getting these skills? How does the situation differ between developed and developing countries, between cities and rural areas, between young men and young women?

Hi. My name is Ndungu Kahihu from CAP Youth Empowerment Institute based in Nairobi. We are a youth employability training and support program. We target vurlnerable young people.

Hello everyone! My name is Tahsinah Ahmed and I work for BRAC as the Director  of its Skills Development Programme (SDP). I am assisting BRAC set up its SDP, which was launched in 2015, based on the learning of a pilot, the Skills Training for Advancing Resources (STAR) Project, which started in 2012. SDP envisages to provide competency based training to 500,000 (50% female and 10% People With Disabilities) youth and adults within 2020 and ensure jobs for at least 80% of the graduates.STAR continues as SDP's flagship project while new interventions are being developed. 
I am very pleased to join the discussion and learn from the rich experience all of you will bring in. 

Hi I'm Debbie Phillips, Head of Citizenship for UK and Europe at Barclays. I have been with the team for 15 years and have had the privilege of supporting a wide range of employability programmes during that time.

Between 2012 and 2015 we at Barclays supported over 5.7 million disadvantaged young people with skills.

We continue to recognise that across our geographies young people in particular are disproportionately unemployed and that by creating access to employment we can, not only help people gain employment but also help businesses get the skilled talent they need to grow.

At Barclays, we have an ambition to deliver Shared Growth: products and services that create societal and commercial value, not one or the other. This means that we’re investing not only in employability skills programmes and future of work research but we’re also working to create access to job opportunities in high growth companies and with scale up entrepreneurs.

Reply to Discussion


Latest Activity

Joanna Bingham is now a member of Business Fights Poverty
Simon Dixon is now a member of Business Fights Poverty
Dec 8
Angela Melodia is now a member of Business Fights Poverty
Dec 7
Tiambi S is now a member of Business Fights Poverty
Dec 5

© 2017   Inspiris. Business Fights Poverty was created and is managed by Inspiris, a Certified B Corp.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service