OPINION: Celebrating the World Youth Skills Day 2020, the hard truths

OPINION: Celebrating the World Youth Skills Day 2020, the hard truths

By Ramakrishnan Hariharan (Ram)

The aim of World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) is to recognize the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship, and to highlight the crucial role of skilled youth in addressing current and future global challenges.

Designated by the UN General Assembly in 2014, the World Youth Skills Day is an opportunity for young people, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, and public and private sector stakeholders to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.

According to World Bank data on Kenya, the country had the highest rate of youth unemployment in East Africa in 2015. This information was echoed by the Census data that was released earlier this year, showing that 5,341,182 young Kenyans are jobless.

While these numbers are already worrying, the data also showed that 48.2 percent of the Kenyan population is below 17 years; this means that a wave of millions of job-seekers will be joining the market soon, a worrying trend that needs a solution NOW!

This year’s World Youth Skills Day takes place in a challenging context. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have led to the worldwide closure of vocational education and training institutions, threatening the continuity of skills development.

A business-as-usual approach would risk exposing Africa not only to economic under-performance and brain-drain, but also social unrest. Business leaders and the international community must mobilize now to develop sustainable solutions to this crisis.

Cooperation, capacity building and innovative business models are critical in addressing youth unemployment in the region. Focus need to shift to resilience, and the continent needs to take stock of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on skills development and explore strategies in response to the unfolding economic crisis.

The continent needs to re-focus its energy in preparing young people with the capacities to respond to rapid changes in employment and entrepreneurship in the sectors that are hardest hit by the crisis.

In the longer period, this will mean adjusting skill development systems to changes in the world economy that the pandemic and recession will bring.

Ramakrishnan Hariharan (Ram) is the CEO at Generation Kenya, one of the world’s largest, fastest scaling global demand-driven youth employment programs, providing young adults with the opportunity to launch successful careers and change their life trajectories. Since launching in May 2015, Generation Kenya has trained over 18,000 candidates across 6 different industries and 83% of them have been placed in meaningful employment with over 250 employer partners. 

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