Getting today’s youth ready for tomorrow: World Youth Skills Day
About 1.2 billion youth between the age of 15 to 24 years account for 16 percent of the global population, according to the World Youth Report: Youth and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Education and employment are the two major focus areas for the global youth, as per the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report reveals some disturbing facts about the state of youth employment and education across the globe.
The need for skilling
142 million youth who are in the age of upper secondary age are not going to school and only 14 percent enrolment is being achieved in the low-income countries across the globe. Education is still a luxury for many poor countries and families with almost 30 percent of the poorest 12-to14-year olds have never even set foot inside a school, as per the report.
The gender disparity begins from school. Young women are more likely to not attend and or complete their primary education. This carries over to the employment scenario as well.
As a part of the larger dream of achieving global sustainability, it is crucial that the youth of today is skilled to tackle the demands of the workforce of tomorrow. To that end, the UN has declared July 15 as the World Youth Skills Day.
“This massive willingness to upskill can be attributed to the fact that the half-life of knowledge is reducing fast. By the time one graduate, the subject matter taught becomes obsolete,” said Mayank Kumar, Co-Founder and Managing Director, upGrad. “The ‘in-demand’ skills today aren’t the same as the ones ten years ago and will not be the same ten years from now.”
About two-thirds of the world’s population is lagging in critical skills and about 90 percent of this group can be found in developing economies, according to the Global Skills Index released by Coursera.
Global skills' scarcity
The need to upskill is not confined to a particular country. It has become the need of the hour for the entire global workforce. When it comes to the highest level of disparity in skills, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America are the regions with the highest level of skill inequality, as per the index.
New Zealand, which is a part of the APAC region, ranks at No. 6 on a global scale in terms of having the highest percentage of skilled people while Australia ranks ninth on the global index. At the same time countries like Pakistan (#57) and Bangladesh (#59) are lagging behind.
Israel has come out as the No. 1 leader in Data Science in the Middle East and Africa region while Nigeria occupies the bottom ranks across various fields of study. Similarly, Argentina is No. 1 in technology among the Latin American countries while Mexico and Colombia portray a low level of proficiency in all things technology.
Even though the US is heralded as a leader in innovation, it occupies the middle rankings because skill proficiency is unequally distributed across various regions. The western regions of the US rank higher in skills related to technology and data science while the Midwest is known for business skills.
More people are enrolling in the technology and data science-related courses as compared to business courses. For example, technology enrollments increased by 13 percent while business enrollments reduced by 11 percent. However, it is observed that the technology industry severely lacks business skills that are going to be crucial for the future of work.
When it comes to understanding the need for being nimble and being able to change as per the evolving landscape of work and people, the manufacturing sector is the most resilient in the digital world. Telecommunications continues to be on top in terms of business, technology, and data science skills.
On the other hand, the financial sector seems to have a below-average skillset. Finance hovers somewhere in the middle for technological skills while second to last in Business and Data Science.
A dearth of skills is a major challenge that is facing the business world today. More than 1.4 lakh jobs in the IT sector remain vacant because of a lack of skilled candidates, according to a NASSCOM report.
“Youth is our future, and building a stronger future is everyone’s responsibility,” said Shraddhanjali Rao, Head of HR, SAP India. “There is an investment required to not only upskill our youth and provide them access to technology but also in building a mindset of entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Rao cited the example of Code Unnati which is an initiative to expand digital literacy among children, adolescents and the youth--especially underprivileged sections of the society in order to boost employability.
The way forward
The new mantra across different boardrooms is now “hire for skills.” In the future workforce, the need of the hour is going to be for the youth to develop self-learning abilities and upgrade their existing knowledge at a rapid pace. Fortunately, most of the youth and the millennial generation have been members of the group commonly known as digital natives. It is precisely why the right programs and initiatives can tap into their agility and ability to learn multiple aspects of technology quickly.
As the demands for the future workforce continue to change at a rapid pace, most companies ask the future employees to go through certain upskilling courses once the offer letters are rolled out to them, added Mayank Kumar, Co-Founder and Managing Director, upGrad.
Pre-boarding programs are becoming increasingly popular among HR leaders as a way to upskill future employees even before they join the organization. These can act as a bridge between the skills learned by the youth in their formal educational environment such as colleges and universities and those skills that are actually required in the workplace.
“This World Youth Skills Day, I call upon the young and bright minds world over to embrace new-age technologies, collaborate and co-create a sustainable future. The key is to stay relevant in this age of constant innovation - the responsibility is yours to take the lead,” said CP Gurnani, MD & CEO, Tech Mahindra.
For Divya Kapoor, HR Head, Shine.com, the responsibility of getting the youth ready for the demands of the industry does not only lie on the youth and their parents but on the government and business leaders as well.
“Practical learning experiences, interaction with industry leaders and relevant workplace exposure should be merged with the syllabus to enhance skill-based learning,” Kapoor added.