Sports and youth employment

In the Pacific region, sport plays a very important role in life. Youth unemployment is also rampant. Linking sports to youth employment could bring about positive results as young peoples’ skills in sports can be useful at work.

Feature | 29 November 2013
What do employers really expect from employees? For the most part they prefer them to be hard working, on time, disciplined, responsible, creative, good teamworkers, eager to take initiatives, focused on results, positive, competitive, fun and energetic.

These qualities are “soft skills” which are common expectations from the world of work. What is striking is how much they also apply to expectations in another world of importance to young people: the world of sports.

We know that an important reason why employers refrain from hiring young people is not lack of experience (which can be achieved by in-house training), but rather their apparent lack of soft skills. So, understanding how those soft skills, such as discipline, good teamwork, competitiveness, etc. that come with sport are relevant to the world of work provides an interesting perspective on youth employability.

The question is straightforward: Isn’t it strange to think that young people can excel at sports but do not have the skills to land the jobs they want, and that, in the employment process, only formal, paper qualifications apply?

A number of programmes have already tried to resolve this dichotomy. Initiatives such as “Clontarf” in Australia and ‘A Ganar” in Latin America allow young people to mix skills and sports to successfully land jobs in a wide range of industries. The ILO has long been an advocate for sports development and youth employment, through its support of programmes for youth sports and peace. An ILO publication “Beyond the Scoreboard,” edited by Giovanni di Cola in 2006 looks at youth employment opportunities and skills development in the sports sector.

In the Pacific, where sport plays a very important role of life and where youth unemployment is rampant, linking the two issues seems to make sense. For this reason the ILO will participate in the Pacific Youth and Sports Conference 2013, to be held in Noumea, New Caledonia, from 2 to 7 December. There will be various activities such as fishbowl discussions, inter-university debates and – of course – a range of sports activities.

The conference will focus on 3 themes: health, social inclusion, and education and capacity building. On health, sports can be used to tackle non-communicable diseases, prevent sexual diseases and teenage pregnancies, and improve mental health. With social inclusion sports not only promote inclusion but can help prevent domestic violence and anti-social behaviour. Sport can also promote school attendance, develop a range of life skills and encourage active citizenship.

The conference will culminate with a youth and sports ministerial meeting to be held on 7 December. Among those attending will be the ILO Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Mr Yoshiteru Uramoto, who will deliver a keynote address.

For more information please visit the Pacific Youth and Sports Conference 2013.

By Mathieu Cognac, Youth Employment Specialist, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific