This #WorldYouthSkillsDay, our CEO Will Straw discusses the #UpskillStruggle many young people face

15th July 2022

World Youth Skills Day celebrates the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment and entrepreneurship.  Much is written about the skills shortages in our economies, but less is understood about young people’s own perspective, particularly at a time of unprecedented volatility with the pandemic not yet over, the threat of a global recession on the horizon and the growing impact of climate change.

To help understand young people’s views on the future of work, we commissioned a new report surveying over 10,000 young people aged 18 to 35 around the world. Launched at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda last month, the results present a stark ‘Upskill Struggle’ for many who are at the very beginning of their careers.

Anyone working with young people around the world will have heard countless stories about the struggles they have faced during the pandemic. Our new research finds that 19% were unable to continue their studies, 26% lost their jobs, and 44% saw their income affected. The ILO is surely right when it says that ‘almost everywhere, the realities of young women and men remain below their aspirations and their potential’.

Young people are clear that they need more support to make it in the world of work. In our survey, they said that gaining skills such as self-confidence, communications, teamwork, problem solving, and resilience were even more important than getting a high school diploma or university qualification. Almost 1 in 3 believe their education did not focus enough on these skills which are so vital to working life.

Although the future looks increasingly volatile, there are reasons for optimism. New job opportunities are being created through the necessary greening of our economies. Working with local partners, we are helping young people gain roles in solar installation and waste management in Ghana and Nigeria. Young people are increasingly seeking jobs in the digital economy too and want the necessary digital skills to achieve them. 7 in 10 young people highlighted their interest in these emerging green and digital jobs to us.

Meanwhile, ageing populations are creating more demand for jobs in health and social care which are of interest to 61% of young people. It is vital that young people are better prepared for these sectors. To succeed, they are calling for more and better career guidance to help them make informed choices and understand the skills they need to be competitive in this challenging landscape.

As well as demanding more from education providers, young people want employers’ support too. Almost a quarter felt that employers could offer more entry-level roles for those without qualifications or provide work experience to give them an initial chance to prove themselves.

Finally, around three-quarters of young people are interested in starting their own business: moving from being job seekers to job creators. To succeed, they need specialised training and advice in how to run a business and how to access finance.

Prince’s Trust International and many other youth organisations around the world are urgently working to ensure young people can realise their ambition through skills development and employment opportunities. The impact of the pandemic is still being felt and we must ensure that young people are not left behind as the world faces the risk of ‘stagflation’ – with the potential for years of low growth and high inflation.

The message from young people is clear. They are eager to work and optimistic about their own futures but need all our support to develop workplace skills. We must continue working together to ensure young people develop the skills needed to build sustainable careers.

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