November 07, 2019

'The key is to keep learning to learn': solving the South Asia youth skills crisis

Theirworld President Justin van Fleet with Global Youth Ambassadors Vivek Gurav and Madhu Chauhan in Mumbai

Photo credit: Theirworld

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassadors ensured the voice of young people was heard at a high-level forum of governments and businesses in India. 

You go to school, get an education and leave, full of hope. But in the world outside you find your skills are sadly lacking - they're not what employers want.

The workplace is changing rapidly with technology, becoming ever more automated, and what you learned in the classroom isn't enough. You've been failed by the system and you're struggling before you've even started.

This is the youth skills crisis. It threatens the future of millions of young people and is a massive problem in South Asia, where almost half of the 1.9 billion inhabitants in countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are below the age of 24.

So what's the answer?

"The key is to keep learning to learn, so that you are not left behind and you keep pace with advancements," said education advocate Madhu Chauhan from India. She is one of Theirworld's network of Global Youth Ambassadors and believes that young people themselves are key to tackling the issue.

"The people who are closest to the problem are the ones who are closest to the solution. So we are the ones who need to take responsibility," she added.

In 2030, 54% of youth in South Asia will leave school without the skills needed to succeed in the workforce

Photo credit: GBC

Madhu and fellow Global Youth Ambassador Vivek Gurav made sure the voice of young people was heard loud and clear at the South Asia Youth Skills and Solutions Forum in Mumbai, India. Last week Their News previewed the event - this week we examine some of the outcomes.

The forum was co-hosted by the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education), UNICEF's Regional Office for South Asia and Generation Unlimited. It brought together governments, international agencies, the business sector and youth to focus on developing partnerships to overcome the youth skills crisis.

The 2030 Skills Scorecard South Asia edition was launched at the forum by GBC-Education and the Education Commission. It revealed that only 26% of secondary school-age children in the region are on track right now to complete school and learn the basic skills needed for employment - rising to just 46% by the year 2030.

The scorecard findings were presented in Mumbai by Justin van Fleet, Executive Director of GBC-Education and President of Theirworld. Reflecting on last week's event, he said: "The biggest takeaway for me was it’s not about skills for jobs - it’s about skills for livelihoods and careers. 

"Young people want to have the ability to control their own destinations when it comes to the future of work and create new opportunities for themselves. 

Click on the tweet below to hear our Global Youth Ambassadors

"The energy and passion with which the youth attendees at the conference have made pledges to do just that - and create resources for their peers - is an inspiration."

A high-level meeting brought together education ministers from several countries including Bhutan and Bangladesh; business leaders such as KPMG and Britannica Group; and chambers of commerce to meet Justin van Fleet, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Jean Gough and Generation Unlimited Director Roberto Benes.

The talks identified how everyone can work together on youth skills issues - including better support for public education systems to partner with the private sector to understand current and future employment needs. 

Vivek, who is also from India, felt young people were "given huge representation" at the forum. He said: "All the youth delegates from the region raised their voices in unison and our thoughts resonated, making a strong impression on the governments and businesses.

"I made a commitment as a Global Youth Ambassador to reach out to more than one million youth from the region on career counselling and employability skill training."

Madhu said the forum placed great importance on "the need to skill, reskill and upskill youth to make them ready for the jobs of today".

She added: "The approach of the global leaders filled me with so much belief that we are all working on getting an outcome."

A Call to Action statement from the forum's organisers urged the private sector, governments and young people to make concrete commitments to:

  • Address the crisis in secondary-age education and scale up digital literacy
  • Prioritise school-to-work transition and decent jobs for youth
  • Promote youth entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial mindsets
  • Empower youth, particularly young women, to exercise their civic and political rights in decisions that affect them in life and work
  • Strengthen regional network and national partnerships for sustained action and knowledge exchange

Some other outcomes and highlights from the South Asia Youth Skills and Solutions Forum included:

  • Companies and organisations are being challenged to make commitments in the coming weeks and months to support the skills agenda in the region. Some South Asian businesses are looking at how they can work together to support skills development. The UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia will follow up on these and commitments made at the forum. 
  • UNICEF South Asia has agreed to work with Theirworld to expand and support the Global Youth Ambassadors network in the region. 
  • Young people and countries are interested in replicating successful models and learning from one another. 

To learn more about the global youth skills crisis, read the report Preparing tomorrow’s workforce for the Fourth Industrial Revolution from GBC-Education and Deloitte.

  • Act
  • Related News