Reimagining Youth Skills Post-Pandemic
Youth can be best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence. Today, there are 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years, accounting for 16% of the global population. In the coming decade, it is likely to grow further by ~7%. The growth is more likely to be in the developing and aspiring to be developed societies. Half of the increase would be in low-income communities. Education and training systems need to respond to this challenge—the importance of skill development to make the transition and achieve sustainable development goals. In 2014, the UN adopted a resolution to observe 15 July as World Youth Skills Day. It is to bring awareness about the strategic importance of engaging the youth and equip and train them with life skills resulting in them being gainful employment. The events organised to observe UN day has provided an opportunity for dialogue amongst the stakeholders: the youth, institutions, policymakers, and governments.
Societies continue to reel under the COVID pandemic, with education and training systems yet to return to normalcy. It is also an occasion to celebrate the resilience and creativity of youth throughout the crisis. Equally important is to realise the institutions imparting the training is coping with the challenge and adopting to continue to be relevant. Educational institutes are yet to return to pre-pandemic conditions. UNESCO, the ILO, and the World Bank reported adopting distance training and the considerable difficulties in curricula adaptation, preparedness of the teacher and taught, connectivity and assessment and certification processes. ILO estimates show that globally, youth employment fell 8.7% in 2020, with the most pronounced fall seen in middle-income countries. The consequences of this disruption are likely to last for years. UNESCO estimates that schools were either fully or partially closed for more than 30 weeks between March 2020 and May 2021 in half the world’s countries. As it stands now, in 19 countries, there are full school closures, affecting millions of learners. People facing significant challenges are young women, youth living with disabilities, youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, and all those in informal or self-employment.
The size of its youth population determines a country’s ability and growth potential. India has a relative advantage at present over other countries in terms of the distribution of the youth population. The total youth population increased from 168 million in 1971 to 422 million in 2011 (per the census). The number would be much high now. India remains younger than many other countries. Youth have the creativity, the potential, and the capacity to make change happen for themselves, the communities they are part of, and the societies they live in. Several measures are being taken by the governments in India. The National Youth Policy was launched in 2014, focussing on a holistic ‘vision’ for the youth of India. National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in 2015 It is the duty of all concerned to empower the country’s youth to achieve their full potential. Through them, it enables India to find its rightful place in the community of nations.
There is a need to put in place the processes to harness, motivate youth to bring rapid progress to a country. The approach should be to address the issues of Education, Employment, Civic Engagement and Migration. A society without youth is like a society without a future. Skilling youth with the latest information creates opportunities for better employment and leads them to become entrepreneurs.