With one in eight young people out of work, education and employment are urgent topics of discussion for this year’s International Youth Day on August 12.. Education’s crucial role in providing young people with the skills they need for solid employment and better lives is also the focus of the 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR), which we will launch on October 16. It is misguided to write and talk about youth skills without listening to the voices of young people themselves. This is why, in time for International Youth Day, UNESCO’s International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP) has launched the website Plan with Youth. The website is a space for young people to discuss how education can be made more relevant for work. Their voices will contribute to the preparations being made in advance of the IIEP’s Policy Forum in October, on the same day as the launch of the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report.
To influence our new report being published in just over 10 weeks time, we also set up a blog to encourage young people to discuss openly the subject of Youth, Skills and Work. Since its conception 9 months ago, voices from young bloggers around the world have highlighted the many different aspects behind the need for skills and exposed trends behind concerns they face in the transition from school to work. The most recent blog post was from Armande Désirée Koffi-Kra in Côte d’Ivoire. She summed up today’s skills deficit for young people. “It is no longer enough just to take learning from books; training must match the needs of the labour market. Here, the system hasn’t made a plan B for young people who have failed at school or university. The common thread between young people in poor and rich countries is that we all want the same thing: work. For this we need fewer policies existing solely on paper about helping young people and more action in favour of building a richer education that is more thorough and flexible and adapts to the needs of the job market!”
John Bya-Mungu Muzinga from the Democratic Republic of the Congo writes that if young people “were taught a few trades instead of being given flour and beans – of short-term assistance only – they could survive and earn a living throughout life.” Ermelinda Pérez, a young woman from Mexico, wrote about the barriers faced by the disadvantaged in the finding employment. She explained that there are new requirements being imposed by the job market “that most indigenous peoples cannot meet.” For Ayshah Mshe, from Kenya, her main concern was that the quality of education simply isn’t good enough to give young people the vital skills they need. “Public schools are overcrowded” she wrote. “Even if the government is providing free education, I believe quality also matters a lot!” Young bloggers on our website have also suggested investigating alternatives to traditional education as a way to learn the skills needed for work. “My education background in political science did not prepare me for work, but through my experience as a volunteer for several organizations in online campaigns, I developed online communication skills and gained knowledge and experience with social media networks and tools”, said Amadou Moctar Diallo from Senegal.
The importance of listening to the voices of youth to foster and inform our debates is underlined by the theme of this year’s International Youth Day, “Building a better world, partnering with youth”. As part of the celebrations, the UN is arranging a series of “hangouts” on their Google+ profile. These video conferences will let young people discuss issues such as education and employment with UN experts, academics and representatives of the private sector. Viewers can contribute their questions on Facebook or Twitter using the #IDY2012 hash tag. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “To unleash the power of young people, we need to partner with them.” The 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report will focus on how skills development programmes can help young people – especially the marginalized – get decent jobs and better lives.