World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) is an opportunity to recognize the importance of preparing young people for employment and entrepreneurship. After all, the youth of today are the adults of tomorrow and the building blocks of our future economies. This WYSD, we pay particular attention to the additional challenges being faced by this age group in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and how we have responded to support young people to overcome them.
Youth often face particular obstacles in finding decent work: while making up over 30% of the world’s workforce, recent figures show that young people between 15 and 24 years old are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. Over the past 20 years, while the global population of young people grew by 27%, the youth labour force shrank by approximately 12.5%. Part of this decrease represents more young adults enrolling in secondary and tertiary education, but it also includes the substantial number who are not in employment, education or training (NEET, more than one-fifth of the youth population), meaning they are not gaining experience, income nor skills – and most NEET youth are young women. In addition, only 23% of the global employed youth are employed in formal sectors with the vast majority relying on informal, temporary work with little to no job security or welfare protection.
Young people without adequate parental care face additional challenges as they transition from school to finding decent jobs. Often, these young adults cannot rely on the support and guidance of parents, nor do they have access to family networks and connections that help in gaining their first work experiences and placements. In addition, they are forced to become economically independent earlier than their peers because they “age out” of any legal entitlements to legislative and practical support when they turn 18. This fast-track to independence puts these young people at risk of poverty and marginalization at the expense of training and education that could otherwise lead to more satisfying careers, higher-earning jobs and a path out of poverty.
This year, young people face the monumental burden of COVID-19 and impending global recession on their current and their future lives. According to estimates, “the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty” possibly reversing up to a decade of progress. As a consequence, the number of young people who lack adequate parental care will increase. Young people are already at risk of un- or underemployment, as well as often being the first to be let go from a workplace, making them particularly vulnerable to the consequences of slow economies or economic downturn. The impact of COVID-19 on youth labour market outcomes will be severe in both developed and developing countries, with 3 out of 4 informal workers being young people. As such, the employment situation for young people has become even more precarious than before, with one in six now out of work due to COVID-19 and facing an unpredictable future, the need for employability training is even greater than ever.
Nevertheless, education and skills training have also been severely impacted; at the beginning of April, over 91% of the students enrolled in education worldwide were out of school because of closures. Distance (virtual) education has become the most common way of continuing to learn.
At SOS Children’s Villages, we have embraced this shift to virtual alternatives in YouthCan!, our global partnership supporting young people without adequate parental care to successfully transition to decent work and independent life. In this partnership with the private sector, corporate volunteers share their time, skills, expertise and own career journeys. As education, training, and mentoring transitioned even more online, our corporate partners stood by their promise, facilitating access to digital devices and mobilizing their employees for online mentorship activities using YouthLinks, the digital platform of YouthCan!.
YouthLinks! is an online solution for young people to continue skills training and mentoring, improve their digital skills and build their personal networks – as well as being able to stay socially connected during lockdown. Not only have face-to-face activities been re-imagined into virtual activities using the YouthLinks platform, but new trainings have also been developed to support young people with topics adapted to the current situation. These range from mental health awareness during these delicate times to job searching and applying for jobs during the COVID-19 crisis. To react to these challenges, we worked on further content for soft and employability skills, mentoring, preparing both corporate volunteers and local SOS Children’s Villages coordinators to make this move towards virtual engagement. With continued access to skills development and opportunities, young people can thrive in successful careers.
We have asked young people around the world how the coronavirus pandemic has affected their lives and how they are continuing to strengthen their vocational skills using YouthLinks!
In the context of the pre-existing youth employment crisis, the current COVID-19 pandemic and the inevitable global economic downturn, inequalities are being exposed and bred, which will strongly bear on young people unless they do not receive immediate and effective support. We are grateful for the continued and bolstered commitments of our partners to supporting young people as the face the challenges of today and prepare for their future.
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