Skills Friendly Cities Initiative

Tackling Local Concerns, Making a Global Impact


The Skills Friendly Cities Initiative aims to achieve practical, rapid, and relevant solutions to the youth skills crisis for communities by bringing young people, the business community, and policymakers together at a city-level to deliver new ways of working in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Building on the recommendations of the Global Business Coalition’s landmark Youth Skills report, the Skills Friendly Cities initiative transforms the report’s global recommendations into tangible, local actions.


Alarming trends show that by 2030, over half of the world’s young people – 825 million – will not have the most basic skills for employment and participation in society. The pace of change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – fueled by the development and accessibility of technology, automation, and robotics – means that the labor market will continue to evolve, making a large proportion of today’s professions obsolete while creating a new wave of employment opportunities.

Instead of responding to labor market demand, the pace of change will require the business community to be more proactively engaged in predicting industry trends, adapting to the future of work and supporting NextGen skills development (Millennials and Generation Z). And as the Millennial generation progresses and the Generation Z populations are now approaching the age of entry into the labor market, the ideas and the ways NextGen youth anticipate and envision their own skill development pathway and participation in the economy will play an important role in how individuals and employers mitigate shifts in the global economy and workforce. Both of these stakeholder groups – business and youth – must advance in the future of work with a backdrop of conducive public policy which places investment in quality, equitable and inclusive education at a premium to help young people acquire the right mix of workforce readiness, essential human skills (or soft skills), technical skills and entrepreneurship skills for the jobs of today and the workforce of tomorrow.

Why Cities?

These complex challenges also come at a time when major demographic shifts are taking place. According to the City Lab, by 2030, more than five billion people (six out of every ten people) will live in cities and urban centers. By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. The United Nations reported that projections demonstrate that urbanization, combined with the overall growth of the world’s population, could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050, with close to 90% of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa.

Cities are often considered the best place to generate wealth and improve living standards at a faster rate because of density, interaction and networks. In addition, the leaders of cities often have the power to influence educational institutions and help to oversee policies and practices that govern these institutions. In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, city policies will become even more relevant as they are able to react quickly to local trends and be responsive to large proportions of young people. And while this level of policy engagement could provide quite effective in mitigating the future of work and sustainability for NextGen, the diversity within each city context will require flexible and adaptive approaches youth skills.

These dynamics place us at a unique crossroads and present an opportunity to proactively address the looming crises of youth skills and participation in the economy by harnessing the power of young people, the business community and the city-level policymakers to create rapid progress in addressing the global skills challenge – one city at a time – and generating a network for sharing innovative practices to addressing in real-time the evolving challenges of youth and opportunity in the future of work.


This initiative has four primary objectives:

Define and Communicate Standards

The initiative will provide clarity to cities on how to become “skills friendly” by defining critical activities to undertake and indicators to track. These standards will be communicated through a report and dashboard that is shared broadly.

Incentivize Excellence
and Innovation

The initiative will incentivize cities to become more “skills friendly” by administering a national challenge that rewards achievement related to the standards and recognizes innovations and aspirations. The competition will also encourage intra-city collaboration among city leadership, youth-serving organizations, industry, and education systems through the application process. Cities will self-submit data, and winning cities will be selected by an advisory board. The competition will require intra-city collaboration among city leadership, youth-serving organizations, industry, and education systems throughout the application process.

Foster a Cross-City Learning Community

The initiative will create opportunities for cross-city collaboration through a learning community to elevate best practices, enable joint problem solving, and promote collective success.

For more information on GBC-Education’s Skills Friendly Cities initiative, email or download this overview:

Skills Friendly Cities

The Skills Friendly Cities Initiative was an idea born from our Youth Skills report.