The four skills young people need to find work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Youth Skills Main Version 2
New technologies are developing rapidly and changing the way we live and work

Two billion young people could be at risk of missing out on jobs of the future - unless urgent action is taken to make them ready to succeed.

There’s a global employment crisis – and it’s over jobs that are very new or don’t even exist yet!

Technology is moving so fast now that hundreds of millions of young people are in danger of being left behind unless they get the skills needed to succeed.

The so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution threatens to affect two billion young people who are at risk of missing out on jobs of the future.

Here we look at the issue – and the four crucial sets of skills that youth will need.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The phrase was first used by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. It describes how new technologies such as robotics, virtual reality and the Internet of Things are changing the way we live and work.

The phrase Fourth Industrial Revolution is often shortened to 4IR.

Why is the Fourth Industrial Revolution a threat to the future of young people?

Youth Skills Main

Young women at one of the Code Clubs run by Theirworld in five African countries (Theirworld)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and emerging technologies are transforming the type of work people do and how it is done. That means many young people across the world could be left behind because they lack the skills needed.

A stark warning came in a report about helping youth be prepared for employment when change is happening so rapidly. Preparing Tomorrow’s Workforce for the Fourth Industrial Revolution was published by Deloitte Global and the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education), a network of more than 150 companies.

The report said the future could look bleak for two billion young people by the year 2030 unless the global business community shows leadership and comes up with new solutions.

Jamira Burley, Head of Youth Engagement and Skills for GBC-Education, is a co-author of the report. She said: “We believe that the business community must proactively work with young people to support its future workforce needs to keep up the industries of the future.

“That’s why we launched the Youth Skills and Innovation Initiative to bring together and take action alongside diverse partners from the business community, government officials and youth representatives.

“Our objective is to improve youth innovation and skills, with an emphasis on marginalised populations most likely to be left behind.”

A snapshot of youth skills now

These findings come from the Global Youth Survey of 531 people aged 15 to 29 in 45 countries, carried out in 2018.

New Youth Skills Advisory Council Survey Results

Gideon Olanrewaju is one of Theirworld’s network of more than 900 Global Youth Ambassadors in over 90 countries and founder of the Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative in Nigeria. 

He said: “The advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has left evident gaps in existing learning systems and jobs requirements. With existing jobs becoming competitive and new jobs being created through technological innovations, millions of young people will be left behind if formal and informal educational systems fail to address these gaps. 

“For young people to cope, succeed and remain competitive in the future workplace, it is imperative that opportunities are created for the development of core skills that are relevant in the new work and education era.”

“Apart from the acquisition of knowledge and capabilities to perform specialised tasks, young people must be prepared to find and secure jobs and also succeed in their workplace. 

“Governments must prepare youth for a future in which jobs and required skills will change, and in which agility and continuous learning provide a foundation for growth.”

Youth by numbers

  • 1.8 billion – more than 25% – of the world’s population are between the ages of 15 and 29.
  • The youth population in Africa is expected to rise by 15% by 2050.

So what do young people need to be ready for future work?

The report by GBC-Education and Deloitte – a global accounting and professional services network – outlined the four sets of skills that young people need to prepare them for the future workplace.

Jamira Burley said: “While STEM has been the buzzword of skills development over the past 10 years, our research found that this laser focus should change to match the skills required in the future. 

“There are four types of skills that we uncovered, which will be necessary for young people. Underpinning all of these is the need for lifelong learning and reskilling.”

Here is a summary of the four sets of skills.

1. Workforce readiness

Workforce Readiness

What does that mean?

The basic set of skills needed to get into the workforce and be successful, such as attendance, time management and personal presentation. This can range from searching for a job to staying in employment.

These skills include…

Literacy, numeracy, digital literacy, resume/CV writing, self-presentation, time management, professionalism, etiquette, social norms.

2. Soft skills

Soft Skills

What does that mean?

Having the abilities to interact, communicate and collaborate with a range of people – including colleagues, customers and management. As humans increasingly work alongside robots, uniquely human skills – such as creativity, complex problem-solving, emotional intelligence and critical thinking – will be irreplaceable by machines.

These skills include…

Communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, adaptability, initiative, leadership, social emotional learning, teamwork, self-confidence, empathy, growth mindset, cultural awareness.

3. Technical skills

Tech Skills

What does that mean?

Having the knowledge and capabilities to perform tasks specific to a job. New employment opportunities are being created through technology, so jobs often require industry-specific technical skills and targeted training.

These skills include…

Computer programming, coding, project management, financial management, mechanical functions, scientific tasks, technology-based skills, and other job-specific skills (e.g. nursing, farming, legal).

4. Entrepreneurship


What does that mean?

The knowledge and abilities to create and build a work opportunity or idea – including setting up a business, starting freelance work or developing as a self-starter within a work environment. As the gig economy grows, young people’s ability to be innovative, creative and take initiative to launch new ventures will serve them well in the 4IR.

These skills include…

Initiative, innovation, creativity, industriousness, resourcefulness, resilience, ingenuity, curiosity, optimism, risk-taking, courage, business acumen, business execution.

What's stopping young people learning these skills now?

GBC-Education has a youth advisory council. It organised focus groups which highlighted some of the barriers youth currently face in developing their skills.

They include:

  • Some youth do not know what 4IR is
  • Some teachers are not digitally literate
  • Many schools are underfunded
  • Disparities in quality of education
  • Schools not able to keep up with the rate of technology change
  • Some students feel an education will give them all they need for a career
  • Poor access to the right tools needed to develop these skills
  • Inability to afford basic tools like computer, electricity
    and internet
  • Some youth do not have access to computers
  • Some have access to computers but do not know how to use them
Youth Skills Technical Skills


So is the outlook totally gloomy?

Certainly not. The report by GBC-Education and Deloitte has a clear pathway for business and other organisations to work together on the issue.

At a joint, live-streamed event in New York in September, David Barnes – Global Managing Director for Public Policy at Deloitte – had a positive message.

He said: “New technologies are going to create a whole host of jobs that we don’t even know today. It is hugely important that we don’t lose track of that.

“At the moment it feels very uncertain. Nobody is quite sure about what is going to happen in the future.”

But he emphasised that business has a crucial role to play.

Barnes said: “It’s not just a humanitarian imperative – it’s a business imperative that we have an education system and a business education coalition that works together to look at what skills do we need.”

What's happening now to address the issue?

People are taking the subject of youth skills very seriously. After the report was launched, the live-streamed discussion on Facebook – during United Nations General Assembly Week – was viewed more than 350,000 times.

GBC-Education plans to take the report’s recommendations forward through its Youth Skills and Innovation Initiative by establishing an “action hub”. It will bring together diverse partners to take action to drive forward and scale new models for youth skills. 

Deloitte is committed to working with leaders from across the business to apply the recommendations to its own programmes and help youth around the world to join the workforce of the future.

The company is collaborating with GBC-Education on a Lead 2030 Challenge for quality education. One Young World’s Lead 2030 initiative aims to support youth-led solutions for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through business-supported challenges.

This Lead 2030 Challenge encourages youth applicants to submit solutions that drive impact in either skills development and lifelong learning, accelerating entrepreneurship, or improving access to education and skills opportunities to help prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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