It has been over a month since the hosting of the ECOSOC Youth Forum and the dreadful statistics are now etched in my mind… “73.4 million young people – 12.6 % – are expected to be out of work in 2013, an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013”, “more than 6 million young people have given up looking for a job “more than 6 million young people have given up looking for a job…” and how about this one, “the global youth unemployment rate is roughly 12.6%…”
There have been a number of discussions along with recommendations regarding the issue of youth employment and entrepreneurship at the ECOSOC Youth Forum. No one can argue the urgent need for action as it relates to this issue. The above statistics are more than just charted facts; young people are plagued everyday by the harsh realities of not being able to find a job or not being able to capitalize on a great business idea. Over the next decade, if we continue to face these challenges without producing and implementing workable solutions, young people will lose the opportunity of living up to their full potential which will also affect the growth prospects of their countries.
I am a believer of immediate action as there is always something which can be done NOW. However, every sensible action needs a solid plan. So here are a few recommendations which were discussed among youth delegates at the ECOSOC Youth Forum that I believe are solid enough to create sensible actions.
- Youth Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship
Globally, many young people are viewing entrepreneurship as a viable career option. Social entrepreneurship is also becoming a very attractive alternative to traditional businesses because of the high social and environmental impacts. There are many organizations which currently fund startups and there is also a lot of support for starting a business. However, it is imperative that young people create solid entrepreneurial networks within their countries and regions as well as lobby for additional support for startups and existing enterprises.
- Education and Training
Young people are in need of the right kind of education and training, one that will enhance employability, promote skills mastery of chosen area, encourage the use of technology, stimulate innovative thinking and resourcefulness and prevent skill mismatches. Learning is no longer limited to what is shared or discussed in the classroom. Knowledge is at our finger tips by the click of a button! Therefore, the phrase “the art of learning” has never been more applicable. Learning must now become ‘hands on’ in every way and not just when it comes to learning a skill. Young people must learn to create innovative solutions for the unique problems they face in their countries through their chosen career. It is no longer about studying for a degree or learning a new skill.
- Strong policies and partnerships
Creating jobs is not only about financial resources. You can have all the money in the world and not know what to do with it. Therefore, the need for strong partnerships and polices to create solid action plans is paramount. There is a need for labour market policies which guarantee gender equality at work and eliminates gender pay-gap. Additionally, policies should also promote adequate social protection, decent work and livelihoods for young people in both formal and informal sectors in accordance with ILO labour standards. Furthermore, labour market policies which ensure employment support for disadvantaged youth that is tailored to their needs, and school-to-work transition policies must not be overlooked. Of course, if developed for each country/region, all these policies would be a great start. However, they would not be totally ready for implementation without the right kind of partners. Partnerships are vital to every action plan and are critical to the implementation of every policy. The right kind of action needs the right kind of people, not just for financial support but also for technical support and expert advice.
School-to-work transition programmes have become critical to the development of employability skills and employment readiness among youth globally. More of these programmes need to be developed to increase the employment rate among the youth population. Apprenticeship provides young people with necessary work experience that may increase their chances of finding employment. In addition, this also helps to develop mastery in their chosen profession which will allow them to be more efficient and productive in the world of work. In Jamaica, the National Youth Service (NYS), which is an agency of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, has two unique programmes which facilitate this kind of initiative: the Graduate Work Experience Programme (GWEP) and the NYS Summer Programme.
Although this is one of the most important forms of getting work done, it has not received the prestige and importance it deserves especially in developing countries. However, volunteering whether informal or formal is not only important to meeting the developmental needs of a country, it is also vital to the development of self. The value of volunteerism must be etched in the minds of young people today to ensure its continued benefits for country and self. Personally, in the early stage and even presently, a lot of the skills I have come to master was as a result of volunteering. Moreover, many of the opportunities that came my way (employment included) were as a result of volunteering. Therefore, if your concept of volunteering is ‘free labour’ and limited rewards, think again… Sure, you may be working without receiving a salary or a stipend, but the personal and professional rewards are endless.
It was estimated that about 670 million jobs will have to be created over the period of the Post 2015 Development Agenda in order to cope with the current spread of unemployment and growth in the working age population. Globally, young people must work together to assist world leaders with solutions for job creation. We can no longer practice exclusivity with such a pressing global issue. Countries, regions and the world at large must develop and enforce strong polices and partnerships to target youth unemployment, and who better to assist with this than youth themselves.[i]
To learn more about the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2014 and the Crowdsourcing initiative on youth in the post-2015 development agenda, visit http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/youth2014/ and http://www.un.org/youthenvoy/news/crowdsourcing-initiative-on-youth-in-the-post-2015-development-agenda-launched-today/
ILO-International Labour Organization