World Youth Skills Day more important than ever

Today is World Youth Skills Day, and it comes at a time when there are more unemployed young people than ever before. What’s more, those still learning skills are being held back by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has closed colleges across the globe.

The United Nations has revealed that 70% of the world’s learners have been affected by school and college closures due to the coronavirus, threatening the continuity of skills development.

World Youth Skills Day comes a month after South Africa marked Youth Day to commemorate the 1978 Soweto school uprising against the apartheid education system that was designed to ensure black youths received inferior schooling.

The UN General Assembly designated July 15 as World Youth Skills Day in 2014, to highlight the importance of youth skills development, one of the most difficult challenges of our time.

In a statement the UN said: “Young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and [are] continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs, greater labour market inequalities, and longer and more insecure school-to-work transitions.”  

According to a global survey of TVET colleges involving Unesco and the World Bank, it emerged that distance training has become the leading way of imparting skills.

However, this been hampered by, among other things, curricula changes, trainer and trainee preparedness, connectivity and certification processes.

Skills shortages remain a key barrier for youth development in South Africa, with more than 80% of South Africa’s chief executives concerned about the lack of skills required for their organisation’s growth.

This is despite many efforts to improve the status quo, including increased investments into tertiary education and learnerships.

South Africa has critical skill shortages in the fields of information and technology, finances, health and engineering – providing young people with opportunities to seize the gaps.

The Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020 report indicates an increase in the number of youth not in employment, education or training (NEET).

Just four years ago there were 259 million people deemed to be NEET, and that figure jumped to 267 million in 2019. This means that the international target to reduce the NEET figure by 2020 will not be achieved.

Education 2030, which is part of the Global 2030 Agenda, makes education and training central to reducing youth unemployment.

It is contained in the Sustainable Development Goal 4:  “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

The words of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan are more relevant now than ever before: “Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished’.