Many higher education systems and institutions around the world are still insufficiently tailored and aligned to the practical and dynamic needs of the labour market. As Ivan, 26, from Croatia eloquently stated, “academic institutions are focused too much on theoretical learning, and not enough on practical skills.” All types of higher education, including formal, non-formal and informal are essential tools for young people to succeed in the labour market.
Developing leadership qualities among diverse youth is vital if innovative solutions to job scarcity are to be found at scale. Not only are such qualities (often associated with life skills, such as problem-solving and critical and creative thinking) empowering on a personal level, but they are also coping mechanisms for young people during difficult economic, social and political times. Hikmat, 21, from Afghanistan reflected:
“I believe that passion and commitment is the key for a strong leader to do what's right and the best for their countryfolk or followers. In my opinion, a great leader doesn't need to be reminded of what to do, instead [s/]he shows excellence in what [s/]he does, such that [s/]he walks what [s/]he talks.”
Encouraging the capacity of youth to be proactive is vital during challenging times. Hira, 23, from Pakistan (studying in the United States) urged fellow participants to: “Check the websites of country offices of large international organizations in your own country, it always helps. Talk to people and be very proactive. That’s my advice for all the young people! At this age, we expect that everything would come to us easily, but no one gets it until they put in an effort!”
Internships and volunteering can offer young people opportunities to develop their life skills and help increase their chances of finding a job. Furthermore they may even contribute towards youth supporting peer learning, such as young entrepreneurs like Janine, from South Africa, who told us:
“I am working on a concept that is looking to place young college and university grad[uate]s in projects that give them real experience. Not internships where they get coffee and update lists. There are internship opportunities available, but they are heavily centred around the areas of engineering, [information technology] IT, finance and law. I want to begin with the areas of grad[uate]s from the marketing, communications and digital sectors. I also want to start a platform for volunteering for youth, an area with tremendous opportunities.”
But the question remains…how can we meet the aspirations of young people? The e4e - Education for Employment: Realizing Arab Youth Potential vimeo clip [See video below] suggests some of the linkages between education and future employment. Steffi, 29, remarked on the e-discussion platform after watching the clip that:
“The e4e education for employment initiative could not have come at a better time, as it addresses problems that go beyond the Arab World. Youth unemployment remains one of the biggest challenges in the Asia‐Pacific region, where youth account for half of the region's jobless ‐ and the skills mismatch being one part of the problem. I agree that the solution must come from a united effort among Governments, the private sector and educational institutions, but also, importantly, the trade unions and civil society actors to make sure that the rights of young workers to decent work are always part of the mix. In some cases (especially in the developed world), we have witnessed an increase in precarious employment for young people, who have often little choice but to accept whatever job they can get, so a crucial question remains - how can we not only create skills that match the labour market, but also quality jobs that match the aspirations of young people?”
Indeed, this was one of the questions debated by organizations and Heads of State at the Building Future Education MENA events in October 2011. The private sector certainly has a stronger role to play with regard to improving education and increasing the employment opportunities for the youth of today.
International Labour Organization (2008). Apprenticeships in the informal economy in Africa. Workshop report, Geneva, 3-4 May 2007. Employment Sector: Employment Report, No. 1. Geneva: International Labour Office
Morrison, Andrew, and Shwetlena Sabarwal (2008). The economic participation of adolescent girls and young women: why does it matter? PREMnotes Gender, No. 128 (December). Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
United Nations Development Group-Millennium Development Goals Network (2011). Report of the e-discussion on education: closing the gap, held from 1 February to 4 March 2011 as part of preparation for the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s 2011 Annual Ministerial Review on education.