Leaders Commemorate First World Youth Skills Day

Photo by UNHCR / Greg Constantine.

July 15 marked the first annual UN World Youth Skills Day as high-level speakers and youth activists gathered at the UN headquarters in New York City to raise awareness for the growing skills gap throughout the world and to encourage governments to invest in youth development programs. Hosted by Sri Lanka, Portugal, UNESCO, the ILO, and Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the event highlighted the importance of developing youth skills in the post-2015 development agenda.

Lack of employability among the world’s youth is widespread and global action is needed to ensure that the growing next-generation workforce is not left behind. There are 59 million children around the world who are not in school and, at this rate, will never graduate from primary school. While the number of out-of-school children remains high, international aid to education is quietly dwindling. Public spending will likely not thwart this downward trend in education support alone, especially since education receives only a fraction of development aid compared to other sectors and, during crisis situations, it’s often one of the first sectors to be forgotten.

Showcased at this event was Sri Lanka which, in an effort to alleviate unemployment and underemployment, launched the Skills Sector Development Program (SSDP) in 2014 to target youth in rural areas, especially females since they are most affected by the skills gap. Research by the World Bank and the University of Colombo, reveals that youth skills development programs like the SSDP have led to the sharp decline in unemployment in Sri Lanka.

While other countries should follow in the footsteps of Sri Lanka to implement such programs, the private sector also plays a unique and invaluable role. By investingin their future workforce to create skilled and employable youth, the private sector can simultaneously strengthen the communities and economies in which they operate. GBC-Education member Microsoft, for example, recently announced their latest initiative to employ 100,000 youth in the U.S. by 2018 through their “100,000 Opportunities Initiative” which they co-founded with other companies. The private sector can also help shape the curriculum so that youth are equipped with the skills needed for employment.