Why youth skills? Persisting in such high numbers, youth unemployment impacts individuals, families, communities, and the whole economy. Put simply, it becomes a pressing issue for everyone, everywhere. At the same time, passionate and innovative young people around the world are showing us the power of youth-led business and social change. Understanding the potential of well trained young people to transform our world for the better, we see at least six key reasons to invest in youth skills:
- We can’t reach the Sustainable Development Goals without investing in youth skills. Within the Global Goals, skills development figures as part of Goal 4, around quality education. What that framework doesn’t say, but what AF knows to be true, is that this learning factors into how the world can achieve each objective on the ambitious agenda. In addition to being critical to achieving Goal 1, ending global poverty, youth skills development can have a far-reaching ripple effect, as illustrated by other points in this list.
- We don’t have time to lose. By 2030, the end date for the SDGs, today’s 18-year-old will be 32. Our mission is that by that age, a young person is a productive, civically engaged, tax-paying citizen who can support a family if they have one. We must reach today’s young people with the right technical and life skills to unlock opportunities for them and future generations. Our “Youth Development skills” program focuses on life skills such as self-confidence, responsibility, and respect, and workplace readiness skills including interviewing, time management, and career planning.
- Fostering youth skills can drive gender equity and ultimately promote gender equality (Goal 5). When AF looked at what Uganda’s young people are doing, we saw that fewer young women than men have legal work despite being enrolled at every level of education in higher numbers. That is to say nothing of wage gaps, roadblocks to completing education, and representation in leadership. A holistic package that includes offerings such as life skills, reproductive health education, and money management can prepare young women to secure safer, better-paying jobs; enjoy greater self-confidence; find financial independence; and become peer leaders in their communities.
- Investing in young people is good for business. This kind of skill development affords the young person, for the company, this investment can offer returns in the form of staff retention, superior teamwork, and increased customer satisfaction.
- Equipping young people with new skills can make communities safer and healthier. Through our initiative, we prove the value of skills in providing young people, especially young men, with alternatives to gangs and drugs. Goal 3 of the SDGs speaks to the need to ensure the health and well-being “for all at all ages.”
- Trained with the skills that augment their passion and interests, young people are powerful partners in solving problems, creating jobs, and leading change. Through our regional initiatives, we have seen the way skills training has equipped entrepreneurs to grow thriving businesses that employ other youth.
We must continue to open the doors of opportunity to more young people, who are powerful allies and can be key advocates for sustainable change.