Sometimes the finest words of wisdom come from our youth. On how to continue developing the skills essential to succeed in the 21st century, particularly during the pandemic, take a look at what a few young people had to say.
Omoyeni Tolulope from Nigeria: “Despite the shutdown, we should explore and not allow the shutdown to shut us down.” (2)
Yousra Assali from Morocco: “Be open to any new technological method or material coming your way, whether studies or work. Be adaptable. Don’t be afraid to implement a new habit.” (2)
Hamden Alhammadi from the United Arab Emirates: “The most important skills for the future are adaptability, problem solving and good communication skills. You get what you work for, so no matter what, work hard and stay safe.” (2)
Photo Credit: Oluwakemi Solaja / Unsplash
All three students attend universities or technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions. They responded to the call from UNESCO to submit video stories explaining how they were grappling with their studies during the lockdown and what they viewed as the most important skills to succeed in the future. The videos were posted as part of the campaign to mark World Youth Skills Day (WYSD), a day that provides an opportunity for young people, TVET institutions and other stakeholders to recognize the importance of preparing young people for sustainable employment and entrepreneurship. The 2020 theme for WYSD, “Skills for a Resilient Youth in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond,” pinpoints the tumultuous days in which we live. (#skillschangelives) (1)
Developing flexibility to learn new skills in a rapidly changing world must be an essential piece of learning in the 21st century, said Shyamal Majendar, Head of Office at UNESCO. Changes are rapid, not incremental, and have serious consequences, he said in a statement to honor WYSD. (1) Indeed, 65% of children entering grade school today will end up in jobs that do not yet exist, according to a World Economic Forum Report. (5)
Photo Credit: Saving Grace School /Brighter Tanzania Foundation
Think about that for a minute. How do we prepare students for future employment that will likely look very different from today’s workplace?
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared some ideas on the occasion of WYSD. “The mantra to stay relevant is: Skill, re-skill and upskill,” he said. “Skill is something that you learn - like building a chair from a piece of wood. You increased the value of the wood by doing some value addition, and to stay relevant, you need to keep adding stuff to it. But it is important to expand our skill further. This is known as upskill.” (4)
How does one learn “to build a chair” online when classrooms have been closed, some might ask. Lee Hee Dong, a South Korean student who submitted a video story, expressed the frustration that many of his generation are feeling. “Students will lose interest if they learn skills only through video education and not direct experience,” he said. (2)
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Jessica Love, the Executive Director of AfricAid, believes that soft skills are key. Resilience, inner strength, confidence, internal motivation and leadership are among the essential qualities that she cites. (3) Though the non-profit organization that Love runs is geared towards assisting young women advance in society, these skills are required of all future workers and entrepreneurs.
Even before the pandemic, rising youth unemployment presented challenges for the global economy. Now, it is believed that one in six young people are out of work due to COVID-19. In addition, one in five young people globally are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET). Three out of four of these NEETs are women. (1) (For more on the economic impact of educating girls, read our blog post.)
Finding work in today’s environment requires hard skills that young people must access from TVET institutions and universities, but even accessing this education requires the soft skills that Love says our world demands. Navigating an educational path during the pandemic is an exercise in resilience and adaptability. Maybe this is the silver lining: persisting during the pandemic demonstrates readiness for the future workplace.