World Youth Skills Day

Policymakers and Young Leaders Call for Skills Development and Resilience for Young Workers

News | 15 July 2020

NEW YORK (ILO News) – Policy makers, young leaders and UN representatives gathered virtually to commemorate the World Youth Skills Day, highlighting the need for skills that boost resilience among young people and set a pathway towards decent jobs.

This year’s theme “Skills for a Resilient Youth in the Era of COVID 19 and Beyond” underscored the importance of prioritizing skills for youth, which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Lockdowns and other measures have disrupted education and employment globally. They have also led to the closure of businesses, risking the continuity of work-based training and pushing young people into unemployment or inactivity.

A recent global enterprise survey led by the ILO and partners showed that over 80 per cent of enterprises in the sample stopped apprenticeships, 36 per cent halted payment of wages or stipends and half of them are planning further cuts in staff training. These changes are hard felt by young people, whose education and labour market outcomes have been severely impacted by the crisis.

H.E. Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mr. Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Minister of Education of Portugal and UN leaders raised concerns that the COVID-19 socio-economic crisis will cause a significant rise in unemployment and underemployment. A recent youth survey conducted by partners of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth showed that over one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the COVID 19 crisis, with negative effects registered particularly among young workers in clerical support, service, sales, crafts and related trades.

As the system-wide effort to boost youth employment, the UN Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth remains committed to scaling up action in response to the crisis through evidence and collective efforts of multiple stakeholders. It is clear that the socio-economic impact can have a long-lasting consequences for upskilling, career development, incomes and livelihoods.

Mr. Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the ILO stated that “We need to ensure that we build back a better normal, full of decent work opportunities for young people everywhere. We call for urgent, large scale and targeted skills- and employment policy responses to prevent the COVID-19 iris from inflicting long-lasting damage to a generation of young people.” There is no challenge more pressing for the world of work today than nurturing a pathway to decent jobs for youth through collective action towards skills development and job creation, all while respecting young people’s rights, voice and representation.

The Director-General of the ILO launched the ILO Toolkit for Quality Apprenticeships Volume II. Quality apprenticeships can be instrumental in lowering youth unemployment rates, preparing skilled workers for a rapidly changing world of work and enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of enterprises. The Toolkit highlights recent innovations in apprenticeships, demonstrating how technology can enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of apprenticeship programmes and how apprenticeships can bridge the skills gap in the digital economy.

The World Youth Skills Day reaffirmed that skills development plays a key part in fostering the resilience of young people. H.E. María Juliana Ruiz Sandoval emphasized that joint action was needed to reshape education, entrepreneurship and employment. COVID-19 was seen as opportunity to use technology, enhance digital literacy and increase connectivity. It is crucial for all stakeholders to ensure the continuity of skills development, especially through distance and blended learning, to guarantee the safety of staff in the education and training workforce and provide continuity to all learners including apprentices, interns and those wishing to upskill and reskill.

The commemoration further included the announcement of the winner of the ILO Skills Challenge Innovation Call. From hundreds of applicants, the Domestic Worker Association of Zimbabwe was selected as the winner of the first edition of the Call. The organization will receive a $50,000 grant and receive technical support through the 6-month long ILO Innovation Lab.

Employers, workers and government representatives underscored that effective policies and the engagement of young leaders are needed to achieve a better normal and provide decent work opportunities for young people. Many speakers also called for universal social protection. As highlighted by H.E. Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, in order to build back better and create inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies, governments have to include education and skills development in stimulus packages. She called for comprehensive solutions to support skills development, promote entrepreneurship, strengthen social protection and improve young people’s rights and conditions in the world of work.