A skill-less youth? Why are the under 25s’ unemployed and what to do about it?

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Why children don't stay in school?

The truth is that no-matter how much governments invest in education, if youngsters do not stay in school or the infrastructure for them to get that novel-tech-educational programs does not exist, they will still remain underprepared for the work market. And in the developing world there are multiple reasons why young people do not stay at school, the lack of it, being just one. The article 10 reasons why children don’t go to school by Ewan Watt is a brilliant overview of some of the problems. The graph below shows how vastly different amounts of money are invested in different countries. Yes the percentages,thankfully, are merging, but the starting GDPs from which these percentages are dedicated are sometimes as different as day and night. 

Thanks to "OUR WORLD IN DATA" for readily allowing reuse of their graphs (click the graph itself to go to their page on financing education for even more data!)

For comparison: Pakistan invested just under 8 billion USD in 2010, and Brazil – nearly 21,5 billion USD in the same year. At the same time, Pakistan’s youth counted just a little more than the one of Brazil at about 35 mln people (here’s a link to dig in some population data). At the same time, the youth unemployment in Brazil was 18 times higher than the one in Pakistan (data from the World Bank). In my personal opinion though, sweatshops are far from desirable and advisable employment option for young people. 

Education beyond school

In all fairness, many of the skills young people acquire, that are directly applicable in a work position and are very much sought after from employers, are not part of the school curriculum one way or another. So for both developed and developing areas, it is extremely important to create and support capacity-building programs, which provide skill-based learning especially to people with relatively basic education degrees. 

All sorts of -ships

The various types of intern-, trainee-, apprenticeships or any sort of on-the-job-learning are absolutely invaluable for young professionals who are just entering the workforce. And employers are starting to recognise this as more such programs become available in both small and big enterprises.  

It is not a given, but in many cases, such placements lead to a contract employment, which opens doors for the young people to the working world. There are also a multitude of scholarships, which support youth in acquiring extra, specific skills which would help them increase their chances of employment. 

Most important is to stress, that there is a vacuum for people with truly practical skills and not so much for highly-educated desk-professionals. Some of the biggest shortage of young workers is in fields like social aid workers. For this purpose, the European Union has the Trailblazer program running, as part of the International Cooperation and Development framework, which is focused on South Africa (here’s another link to an EU Capacity Building program for humanitarian aid). 

There is always a way to learn a new skill

Not only the EU and local governments invest in education and out-of-school programs. A number of NGOs exist to help further the education on youth in specific geographical and skill-areas. The Global Partnership for Education is one of the more successful organisations with a wide range of focus areas. They are pooling resources from almost all possible sources – donor countries, international organizations, the private sector and philanthropists in order to leverage their educational aid programs. Teachers Without Borders is another international NGO which focuses on sending well-thought and skilled educators around the world to transfer their skills and knowledge. Ideally, their volunteers also bring home insight on the educational needs of the region they have worked at. This helps the next aid programs developed to be more on-point and as a consequence – more successful. Here’s another link with some 30+ NGOs focusing on improving education around the world.

A word of advice for the young ones

And for the young person looking to enter the professional world, I have only two pieces of advice – don’t be shy and don’t expect the world to serve you anything on a plate! The world doesn’t owe you anything just because you were born – most of us have to work our buts off to get what we want, and so should you! 

I do agree though, that employers ought to accept and understand that you cannot be 25 years-old, with 3 degrees, 7 languages and 10 years of experience. So be proactive and show them that you are worth it, and that investing in a young and motivated person might be a better bet, than opting for a well-rounded professional who might not be as flexible or creative anymore after years of experience.

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