Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. KOFI ANNAN
World Youth Skills Day comes almost exactly a month after South Africa’s Youth Day, which commemorates the sacrifices made by the students of 1976 in standing up against the Apartheid regime. Designated by the UN General Assembly in 2014, World Youth Skills Day serves to highlight the importance of youth skills development, surely one of the most pressing of the challenges of the twenty-first century.
As the UN notes (see www.un.org/en/events/youthskillsday/), “Young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and [are] continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs, greater labor market inequalities, and longer and more insecure school-to-work transitions.” These challenges are compounded for young women, who are far “more likely to be underemployed and under-paid,” while at the same time being far more at risk from HIV&AIDS, with them being four times more likely to have been infected with HIV than young men of the same age.
Sustainable Development Goal 4.4 calls for a substantial increase in employability skills by 2030. As Kofi Annan suggested, it is critical that youth be brought in from the margin to become central to both economic development and the global quest for peace. To do this, youth—both in and out of school—need to be equipped and empowered with skills relevant to twenty-first century realities. MIET Africa’s youth development programmes specifically target these needs. HIV-prevention programmes such as Keeping Girls in School and RHIVA, focus on the holistic development of young learners including addressing sustainable livelihoods. My Working Future, a comprehensive career development and entrepreneurship course developed for RHIVA (South Africa) and domesticated for Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland, led to Learn to Earn. All our youth initiatives expand opportunities for youth to engage in relevant education programmes, to find employment, create employment, and participate fully in the region’s economic and social development.