Every 15th of July, World Youth Skills Day is celebrated to recognize the importance of imparting skills to young people for employment, decent work, and entrepreneurship. This year’s theme is “Skilling Teachers, Trainers, and Youth for a Transformative Future.”
It emphasizes the role of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in reducing access barriers to the labor market and opportunities for the young generation to live a prosperous and sustainable life (United Nations, 2023).
Technological advancement and the changing labor market dynamics demand agile and adaptable skill sets. TVET plays a crucial role in meetings these new demands by reducing access to relevant education, providing skills recognition and certification, and providing equitable opportunities for young individuals to be equipped and prepared for the challenging dynamics of the world of work in the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Moreover, access to affordable quality TVET is a key priority for achieving the 2030 agenda transversely, addressing the goal for inclusive and equitable education (SDG 4) and the reduction of poverty and inequality (SDG 1) journey.
However, many countries still face the gigantic challenge of preparing the young generations to get the foundational skills needed for further skills development and labor market participation. In 2019, the global learning poverty rate revealed that 57% of children in low- and middle-income countries lived in learning poverty. This is an even more concerning reality in Sub-Suharan Africa, with a poverty learning rate of 86% (World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF, USAID, FCDO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2022).
In light of these challenges, it is evident that there is an urgent need to refocus and prioritize education strategies and investment at all levels to ensure that no children nor young adults are left behind in acquiring the necessary skills for their future livelihoods.
In the case of the working-age population, there is a huge gap in basic literacy and numeracy skills, with up to 18% of the global population reporting being unable to read and write, and these estimates are even twice as significant if literacy is measured through direct assessments (World Bank, 2021).
At the same time, large-scale industries lack a skilled workforce. All these elements combine to increase societal inequality, exacerbating poverty and hindering economic development. As mentioned earlier, the world of work is in a constant state of transformation towards a more dynamic, faster, and seemingly more challenging space to access and navigate. Consequently, digital skills are increasingly vital in today’s rapidly evolving world. Still, shockingly, 67% of the world’s youth lack digital skills, with over 812 million people lacking the necessary proficiency in digital literacy (World Skills Clock, 2023). Acquiring digital skills is essential for youth to thrive in the digital economy and participate fully in the workforce. It is imperative to push towards creative solutions to enhance access for everyone in the world of work. A motivating example is one of our partner organizations OneChild Ghana, which implemented technical apprenticeships and workshops responding to the specific needs of the region.
Motivated by this and other exceptional successful efforts – along with the urgent need to bridge access to opportunities to education – Groundbreaker Talents opened its doors earlier this year to receive the first batch of talented young women in Uganda. Through a full-year residential scholarship, we provide access to specialized training in software development, fostering their opportunities for sustainable employment and contributing to shrinking the skills gap with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) approach.
World Youth Skills Day serves as a reminder of the critical role skills development plays in empowering young individuals for a transformative future. Skills development is crucial for reducing poverty and inequality, driving economic growth, and improving overall well-being. However, challenges persist, including skills mismatches, low levels of foundational skills, and a disconnect between education and work. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach prioritizing quality education, lifelong learning, and developing relevant skills for all individuals. By investing in skills development, we can empower young people to build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.
United Nations (2023). 2023 Theme: Skilling teachers, trainers, and youth for a transformative future.
World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF, FCDO, USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2022) The State of Global Learning Poverty: 2022 Update.
World Bank (2021) Skills Development.
The Skills Clock (July 2023).