Panel discussion on skills development to improve youth employment

Joint event organized by the ILO, the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN, Permanent Mission of Portugal to the UN, Office of the Secretary-General Special Envoy for Youth, UNESCO.


Facilitate an engaging dialogue about:
  • what works to improve youth employment through technical and vocational education and training.
  • how a changing labour market impacts the skills youth need to succeed – from digital to green, soft and transferable skills;
  • the importance of investing in skills development for young people in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth;
  • factors of success in skills development for youth employment and future skill needs.

Programme and participants

10h00 - Welcome and introduction by Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth

10h05 - Opening session
  • Message of the U.N. Secretary-General (Presented by Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi)
  • H.E. Mr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN
  • H.E. Mr. Álvaro Mendonça e Moura, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the UN
  • Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, Deputy Director-General, Field Operations and Partnerships, ILO
  • Ms. Beth Comstock, Vice Chair, Business Innovations, General Electri
  • Mr. Jorge Sequeira, Director, UNESCO Office in Santiago/UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean
10h35 - Moderated panel discussion
  • Senator Dr. the Hon. Esther Byer Suckoo, Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, from Barbados
  • Mr. Wellington Chibebe, Deputy General-Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
  • Mr. Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Global Foundation for Management Education and Dean, IE Business School
  • Mr. Ronald Bruder, Founder and Chair of the Board, Education for Employment (EFE)
  • Mr. Bill Reese, President and CEO, International Youth Foundation (IYF)
  • Ms. Melissa Garcia Velez, Fellow, Immigrant Justice Corp
12h15 - Moderated Open floor Q&A session

12h50- Closing remarks

Topic's overview

While the global youth unemployment rate settled at 13.0 per cent for the period 2012 to 2014, recovery is still elusive and far from universal. The global youth unemployment rate remains way above its pre-crisis level, with young people almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs, greater labour market inequalities, and longer and more insecure school-to-work transitions.

Two in five economically active youth are still either unemployed or working yet living in poverty. In developing countries, youth continue to be plagued by working poverty stemming from the irregularity of work and lack of formal employment and social protection. In low-income countries, many young workers remain in informal employment.

Despite some progress, gender gaps in unemployment remain significant, especially for young women. Women continue to be over-represented as contributing family workers or in other informal work arrangements, limiting their access to social protection measures. In most regions of the world, women are more likely to be underemployed and under-paid, and to undertake part-time jobs or work under temporary contracts.

Education and training are key determinants of success in the labour market and strong predictors of non-vulnerable jobs among youth. However, existing systems are failing to address the learning needs of a large share of youth, whom surveys of learning outcomes and skills reveal have low levels of achievement in basic literacy and numeracy. Furthermore, returns to education are far more likely realized if there are strong, explicit links between education and training policies and the world of work. A lack of those links can result in mismatches between skills acquired by students and those in effective demand on the labour market.

Skills and jobs for youth feature prominently in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG target 4.4, in particular, calls for a substantial increase in the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. In support of this and other youth employment related goals of the 2030 Agenda, the international community recently launched the first-ever UN system-wide Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. The Initiative aims to scale up action at the country-level and to increase impact through effective, innovative and evidence-based interventions.

With growing evidence on how to effectively improve the supply side, there is much more to do to boost the labour demand so that skilled and educated youth experience a smooth transition into the labour market. Technology, greening economies and innovation, among others, are rapidly changing labour market opportunities, conditions and skill requirements. Against this background, the ILO has launched an initiative on the future of work to understand and respond to ongoing change in the world of work. Likewise, UNESCO is working in a new initiative on learning in a complex world which focuses on new skills requirements and education and training development. While new forms of work may offer new employment opportunities, they may also expose young people to greater insecurity. Addressing these emerging trends through innovative solutions is critical.

In addition, job-less growth calls for more emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, the examination of current challenges and developments as well as the evaluation of the role of small and medium sized enterprises for inclusive economic growth and decent job creation.

Understanding what works to support young people in today’s and tomorrow’s labour market through training and skills development measures is at the core of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth and the Education 2030 Agenda and will be the focus of the upcoming special event to celebrate the 2016 World Youth Skills Day.