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. 

 

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in response to whether youth are currently getting the skillsets they need - the youth unemployment rate is actually expected to increase globally as we near the end of the year. The sector still has so much more to do to ensure that all youth have access and opportunities to reach their full potential. From the partnerships we have and the programs we fund, we continue to learn about what is needed to improve youth engagement and their economic success. Today, the skills mismatch, or the misalignment between an individual’s job skills and the demands of the labor market, continues to challenge the youth employment sector.

Working to strengthen linkages between education and training systems and providing youth with access to mentoring, coaching and networks can help to create an enabling environment and the access they need to the support that will position youth with the skills necessary to secure job opportunities in the 21st century economy.

Our work with the Philippine Business for Social Progress is an example of how to improve the employability of senior urban high school students enrolled in a technical vocational track and help them choose their career pathways -- by establishing linkages for training or employment between the schools and local industries. 

In addition to providing linkages, mentoring and building networks - this all provides youth with the confidence, access to relevant resources, feedback and emotional support needed to realize their potential, and develops the values, skills and confidence youth need to succeed in the workplace.

DFID – our colleagues on this Challenge - have pointed out that we should not think only about unemployed youth but also underemployment, that is, young people in poorly or irregularly paid jobs, with little prospect of improving their productivity or conditions.  For example, in the DRC the youth unemployment rate is 8.8% but underemployment – those who work too few hours or whose pay is below the poverty line – is 37.8%.
Richard, would you say this is a particularly African problem or is it a more widespread phenomenon?

Hi Richard, I work for Tools for Self Reliance, a UK NGO which supports vocational training in Uganda (and other countries) local NGO's to provide business and vocational training to unemployed youth and other vulnerable groups. As a part of this we also provide refurbished tools so that the participants can set up a small business post training. What post-training support did DfID provide? 



Richard Sandall said:

I am Richard Sandall, Private Sector Development Adviser in DFID Uganda.  I’ve been with DFID 9 years, and in Uganda 3 years.  As PSD Adviser I am responsible for designing and managing projects that are linked to business growth.  In Uganda I oversee an agribusiness project, and recently finished a £10.5 million project in the poorer Northern region of Uganda that saw 30,000 people trained in business and vocational skills.

At Barclays we partner with leading employability organisations to understand the skills needed and job opportunity areas, in order to achieve scale and support those hardest to reach.

Our research and experience shows that the rapid transformation in workplaces through the digital revolution and the growing importance in transferable skills mean that: support in digital confidence, IT, web development, cyber security, along with problem solving, resilience, communications and decision making are vital to young people’s employability.

We can also see that jobs in the future will mostly come from small and medium enterprises scaling. The OECD, World Economic Forum and World Bank agree that SMEs and new technologies are areas of high employment growth.

To address the last question on developed versus developing, urban versus rural etc. -- Last year, we commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to conduct research entitled Accelerating Pathways  that would bring new insights on how cities are harnessing the power of their youth population. Feeding into the overall project was a youth survey – an opportunity to gain first hand insights into the aspirations and perceptions of young people:  More than 5,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 25 were surveyed, across 35 cities.

While situations differ between developing and developed markets, rural and urban settings, and gender, broadly speaking, common themes emerged across the 35 cities. Young people the world over expressed interest in working for themselves, and this entrepreneurial spirit is consistently high from the world's richest cities to the poorest. We also found that the gender pay gap persists; men earn at least 20% more than women in the 18-25 year-old age group. In addition, the majority of youth surveyed see computer skills as critical to success yet internet access remains unavailable to most.

We continue to leverage this research to help inform our grant making strategy. In many cases, it reinforced what we are already hearing form our community partners; it’s providing us with a solid rationale for investing in entrepreneurship (including female entrepreneurship); and for investing in online training and education.

But we all know too well, that there is no one size fits all, that we must continue to push ourselves and those we partner with to tap into new ideas and innovations and contribute meaningfully to support today’s youth and their economic journeys.

A question for Brandie – JAWorldwide’s recent report references the Economist’s labelling of the current cohort of the world’s young people as ‘Generation Jobless’. The report refers to the fact that as many as half of 15-24 year olds worldwide are not in productive or properly paid employment.  According to JAWorldwide, how much of this is due to the fact that young people lack the right skills to transition out of employment and into good jobs? 

The model we use aims to link youth to employment opportunities by listening closely to who employers tell us they hire (or fire). It has become quite clear that for a young person to secure employment, having the hrad skills to perform the task is not enough. Employers tell us they want honest people who can learn quickly, work in teams, take initiative and be willing to accept new challenges. Some employers even say that they are willing to invest in training a young person on the job if they can show they already these 'soft' skills and altitudes. These are skills that are rarely taught in most training systems in Africa or only very poorly.

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 Richard, I work for Tools for Self Reliance, a UK NGO which supports vocational training in Uganda (and other countries) local NGO's to provide business and vocational training to unemployed youth and other vulnerable groups. As a part of this we also provide refurbished tools so that the participants can set up a small business post training. What post-training support did DfID provide? 

Underemployment is a phenomenon also in developed countries. In Spain, 26% of Young workers are at risk of poverty or exclusión according to AROPE rate. This means wworking conditions are not favourable for youth.

We also discovered how youth have been largely affected byy the economic downturn, suffering from dismissals at a much higher rate tan adults.

Hello all. My name is James Sutton and I work for sustainable development charity Raleigh International. We exist to create lasting change through youth. Because we work with, through and for young people our programming includes two aspects critical to employability.

Firstly we deliver employability via soft skills development through our volunteer experience for young people from the developing countries where we work.

Secondly we deliver employability via our Youth Entrepreneurship programming – the focus here is self-employment of course, but in order to make young people ready to start a micro-enterprise we use youth-to-youth training methodologies to capacity-build in elements such as literacy, numeracy and of tools such as Business Model Canvas.

I would be intrigued by the thoughts of the panel on the role of apprenticeships in providing a pathway to employment, either in place of or together with - formal skills training?


Hi Alan, there was a range of support. In one project (implemented bty VSO) they provided start up business kits to groups of youth who submitted winning business plans.  The challenge sometimes was the grant size wasn't big enough to support all the members of the groups, and the numbers dropped off.  In another component (implemented by Youth Business International), business mentoring and business advice services were provided post training - these had a strong effect for those self selecting into the post training support.


Alan Large said:

Hi Richard, I work for Tools for Self Reliance, a UK NGO which supports vocational training in Uganda (and other countries) local NGO's to provide business and vocational training to unemployed youth and other vulnerable groups. As a part of this we also provide refurbished tools so that the participants can set up a small business post training. What support post-training support did DfID provide? 



Richard Sandall said:

I am Richard Sandall, Private Sector Development Adviser in DFID Uganda.  I’ve been with DFID 9 years, and in Uganda 3 years.  As PSD Adviser I am responsible for designing and managing projects that are linked to business growth.  In Uganda I oversee an agribusiness project, and recently finished a £10.5 million project in the poorer Northern region of Uganda that saw 30,000 people trained in business and vocational skills.

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