Diogenes, the Greek Philosopher said, “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.”
But in a rapidly changing job market, merely educating young people is no longer sufficient. Youth need skills that make them employable and adaptable. A recent report published by the Education Commission and UNICEF estimates that in 92 countries with available data, nearly 3 out of 4 young people aged 15-24 today lack the emerging skills needed for employment.
Digital skills need significant upscaling
The ability to work with and adapt to changing technology is becoming integral to almost all professions as the world embraces the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR). Technology-human connections are blurring, and routine repetitive job skills are being replaced by creative thinking and adaptive learning. Digital skills, therefore, will be crucial for employability going forward.
Socio-emotional skills are crucial to building resiliency
In addition to digital skills, recent surveys have also brought to the surface the crucial need for strengthening socio-emotional skills while training and empowering the youth. In an evolving job market, a high level of emotional strength, empathy and creativity will be crucial for youth to be able to handle sudden setbacks or changes in employment or career.
Prolonged school closures during COVID-19-induced lockdowns have severely impacted the mental health of many young people. This needs urgent attention from policymakers.
Any form of educational curricula targeted at youth must incorporate the above two aspects – building strong digital foundations and socio-economic skills. With many parts of the developing world still resorting to theoretical, classroom-based traditional pedagogy, a key question is whether the existing curricula and teaching methodologies will functionally deliver these crucial skills.
Youth advocacy in education matters
Youth must also be at the forefront, voicing their opinions and being able to provide feedback on whether the education being provided will benefit them. A rigid, top-down approach will not work. A bottom-up approach, integrating youth perspectives on what is relevant and useful is integral.
Youth empowered by this upskilling can then give back to their communities by training the next generation. While allowing for experimentation along the way, this creates a vibrant ecosystem where everyone in the community becomes accountable for ensuring that young people develop useful skills.
As a participant in a community-based project in the Philippines, focused on enhancing youth entrepreneurial skills, noted: