As youth unemployment figures continue to rise in many parts of the world, the need for young people to have the skills that employers want is drawing more and more attention – not least from the young themselves. Their voices can be heard in the latest UN World Youth Report, “Youth Employment: youth perspectives on the pursuit of decent work in changing times,” recently launched in New York.
Many of the opinions and experiences shared in the World Youth Report – which was largely compiled using online discussions with young people around the world – reflect questions that we will be examining in the 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, on youth, skills and work. We are seeking the views of young people as we compile our report, including on our Youth, Skills & Work blog.
“My academic training did not prepare me for paid employment at all,” commented one contributor to the UN report’s discussions, Dayo, 26, from Nigeria.
Some of the views in the report point directly to the kinds of policy questions that are preoccupying governments – and employers – eager to match skilled jobs with skilled workers.
According to the young people cited in the report:
- public and private employers need to collaborate more effectively with educational institutions;
- vocational training needs to be made more available and accessible;
- employers need to value vocational training, apprenticeships and non-formal training more highly;
- labour market needs should be analysed continuously and extensively;
- education and training programmes should be tailored to labour market needs.
Another perspective on skills comes from Ariel Fiszbein, chief economist for the Human Development Network at the World Bank, writing on the Bank’s Education for Global Development blog. He says that as well as a “skills gap” there is also a knowledge gap: “we really don’t know what the best way is to ensure that people acquire the needed skills – or what skills truly are needed.”
The two key questions to ask, Fiszbein says, are “Which skills are missing?” and “Given the apparent high return of having the right skills, why aren’t firms and individuals investing in these skills themselves?”