Empowering youth to ensure skilling up for the fourth industrial revolution

The ability to work with and adapt to changing technology is becoming integral to almost all professions. With limits in government funding and resources to support youth development, locally active grassroots organizations can play a vital role in upskilling youth for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

October 17, 2022 by Poorna Chakraborty, Kahon Ng Karungan
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3 minutes read
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Young boys studying together in their classroom in Philippines. Credit: World Bank/Francisco Guerrero
Young boys studying together in their classroom in Philippines.
Credit: World Bank/Francisco Guerrero

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:

“We are empowered because we are the ones creating the training. When running events and making decisions, we make mistakes, but we learn from them. This is how we improve to get empowered skills.”

Colline Pusta, Life Project 4 Youth (LP4Y) Philippines, youth reactor during World Youth Skills Day 2022 event “Skilled and Job-Ready: Preparing Youth for the Post-Pandemic World”.

Bridging the education gap with support from grassroots organizations

With limits in government funding and resources to support youth development, locally active grassroots organizations — working with communities — will play a vital role in upskilling youth. They represent the “last mile” connectivity to bridge the educational gap and have a good grasp of constraints facing youth in small communities and neighborhoods.

These organizations also can effectively liaise with local governments in a cost-effective manner, make use of their resources (such as using Barangay-owned physical infrastructure in the Philippines), and deliver education that is efficient, effective, and relevant to the job market in the immediate community.

The recently concluded Transforming Education Summit convened by the United Nations has had an extensive focus on the quality and relevance of education. There is a long way to go, but collectively, all stakeholders and policymakers must focus on what the relevance of education will be, rather than merely tracking quantitative aspects of “how many” have been covered.

Without relevant upgradable skills, youth face the prospect of being quickly rendered deskilled and unemployable. Learning and training of the youth in the 21st century must be a journey with constant reskilling and upskilling and not an end.

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East Asia and Pacific: Philippines

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