By Lakshi De Vass Gunawardena
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 18 2019 – When the United Nations commemorated World Youth Skills Day, there was one stark reality that emerged out of the event: the world’s youth account for over a third of the global population of more than 7.7 billion people, and they also account for over a third of those unemployed across the globe.
“Over the next decade, we will need to create at least 14 million jobs per year to keep pace with the growing population” María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly told the panelists.
The panel discussion, which took place on July 15, was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN, along with the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the UN, the Office of the Secretary- General’s Envoy on Youth, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
“Young people can and must lead,” said Ana María Menéndez, Representative of the UN Secretary General.
“They must be able to participate in the decisions that affect their lives, and create an enabling environment, where they are seen not as subjects, but as citizens with equal rights.” she added.
The theme of this year’s World Youth Skills Day was Learning to Learn, which emphasizes that learning should and must not end in the classroom.
The panelists also revealed that right now, 2 out of 3 children in primary school will be in jobs that do not currently exist. With this, it is evident widespread support systems for youths will continue to be fostered, especially within the education system.
The history of World Youth Skills Day goes back to 18 December 2014 when the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus, resolution, A/RES/69/145, titled ‘World Youth Skills Day’ spearheaded by Sri Lanka, declaring 15th July as the World Youth Skills Day.
Since then, this has been an annual event celebrated at the UN.
“Learning is learning to be curious.” Erol Kirespi, President of the Institute of Engineering told IPS.
“Learning to learn can mean a lot of things- I think that learning is about curiosity, and curiosity comes from a passion for something, or having a spark of an interest in something.” Amelia Addis, Champions Trust Regional Representative for Oceania and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and member of World Skills, told IPS.
However, as she noted, too often a young person develops a passion for something, only to get shamed for said passion by outside forces.
“And so often, they might have passion for something and are told not to follow their passion because it’s ‘not the right career. But learning to learn comes naturally when you are passionate about it, so we need to encourage young people to follow up and to have that curiosity to keep learning,” she added.
Ultimately, though it is up to the young people and those around them to help nurture and strengthen their skillsets so that they can have an effective and sustainable role in the workforce. But, as aforementioned, there is a stigma around unorthodox skills and passions.
“I think the biggest challenge with the sort of negative reception to skills is around perception of skills themselves. I think universally skills are thought of as entry level jobs, and those of us involved in the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) community know that this isn’t true”.
“Vocational careers like any other career have opportunities for growth and development on both personal and professional levels. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to expose youth to different career and educational pathways and trust that youth will find their passion. Once they have found their passion they will be on the road to success.” Addis noted.
“My advice for youth who may feel disheartened by the prospect of pursuing skills careers is to trust themselves when they have found something that gives them that spark. If they are looking for more practical help to know what a profession might be like they can find someone who is equally passionate about the skill they are looking to pursue.”
“Traditionally the mentor and apprentice relationship has been the core of so many vocational backgrounds and this is still an integral way youth can gain knowledge about their passions. We must realize however that not every young person will have access to a one on one, in person mentor dynamic, she declared.
“This is where we can look to online communities of peers and professionals to be our mentors. I personally do this in my own work all the time, gaining inspiration from others who work not only in my field but those who have like-minded skills.”
All in all, learning to learn is the door to the success of our world, and the young generation is the key to unlocking that very door.