Sarah Huxley, Lead moderator
Sarah Huxley has been passionately and actively engaged in youth focused development work since 1999. She has worked for a range of organistaions including small NGOs, international agencies, DFID and the UN. Much of her work has involved designing and implementing projects, programme management and policy research in Nepal, Uganda & the UK. Sarah's special areas of interest and expertise include participation, youth policy, gender, education and protection.
Week 2: Maria Cavatore, Plan International
Maria Cavatore has completed an MA in Development studies from the University of London. She has supported children and youth programmes in Latin America and Africa for the past 6 years. She now works as a governance programme Officer for Plan UK in London.
Welcome by the weekly moderator, Maria Cavatore
Education is central to the improvement of the lives of young people globally, and as such has been identified as an international priority area in both the Millennium Development Goals and the UN World Programme of Action for Youth. However, “there is a global learning crisis… among the factors that led to the Arab Spring, one that has stood out as both alarming and preventable is the high level of youth unemployment…[this] is partially due to a lack of jobs, but it is also a result of young people entering the workforce without relevant skills” (Lauren Greubel, August 2011).
There have been increased efforts to improve access to - and the quality of - primary education, but such efforts are not always sustained with regard to secondary education. Even when young people have the opportunity to complete their secondary education, they often struggle to integrate into the labour market. This can be in part explained by the lack of cohesion between secondary school and university curricula, and the ever changing needs of the labour market. There is recognition of a greater need to align education policies, curricula and training programmes to ensure that they provide the most efficient springboard to employment. Yet there are further challenges, such as the gender gap in education that still hinders girls and young women’s potential to access certain types of employment, which must also be tackled.
What remains clear is that a greater focus on quality education for all is crucial if young people are to pursue to address their aspirations and fulfil their potential.
La version française du message de bienvenue du moderateur hebdomadaire se trouve dans la section réservée aux commentaires ci-dessous.
La versión española del mensaje de bienvenida del moderador semanal esta en la sección reservada a los comentarios situada más abajo.
Weekly Key Questions
Days & Themes
1) How well do you think that your formal academic or training institution has prepared you for decent and available jobs? Please explain. For example: what do you wish you were told or shown?
Resources & services
Volunteerism & internships
2) In your country, what kinds of resources and services are available to support you and other young people in achieving your career aspirations?
3) Do you think that volunteerism and internships can adequately prepare young people for future paid employment?Do you have any personal examples to share?
Non-formal and informal education
4) In your view, what role should vocational training play in preparing young people for the labour market? Does vocational training lead to stable and decent jobs?
5) How do you view the role of non-formal education in job preparation? How has informal education influenced your job preparedness?
Social, political & cultural factors
6) Are there any social/political/cultural factors which you perceive to be obstacles/challenges to your candidacy for employment? Can you provide any examples of overcoming such challenges?
7) What are your top 1-3 recommendations for policymakers towards ensuring young people are adequately and appropriately prepared for the job market in your country?
The Week 2 discussion is now CLOSED. It is no longer possible to add new comments, but check out the homepage to contribute to the current discussion. For those of you who have not had time to read all of the comments from the week, please find a summary of the discussion below, which is also available here in a PDF version.
Week 2 Summary
This week, more than 250 comments were exchanged on the topic of education and youth employment. Young people aged 19 to 29 across the globe – from Peru, to Senegal, Kenya, Yemen and India – offered their positive and negative experiences on how education has prepared them and their peers to access employment. Whilst some positive comments were shared, there was a general realization that many educational systems around the world are not always sufficiently tailored to labor market needs.
1) How well do you think that your formal academic or training institution has prepared you for decent jobs?
The main outcomes of the conversation included:
- Academic institutions are focused too much on theoretical learning, and not enough on practical skills. Schools are not equipping young people with some of the skills required for employment such as entrepreneurship, negotiation and networking skills. There is a lack of mentoring and guidance within schools on how to access employment.
- Schools and private enterprises lack consistent linkages and relationships. They do not interact sufficiently to tailor student preparedness with labour market demand.
- Only certain careers, such as in medicine or law, require practical experience to validate a final diploma.
- Education is often only available for the most well-off populations, and some young people with limited resources find it difficult to access.
- Several respondents noted that the quality of teaching, as well as institutional recognition, varies considerably between private and public institutions.
2) In your country, what kinds of resources and services are available to support you and other young people in achieving career aspirations?
- Participants from India and Martinique cited the existence of educational fairs for students in their countries, whereby both schools/universities and the private sector (local businesses) share information about opportunities and possible career paths available to young people. Some schools offer seminars and career guidance aimed at orienting students to the labour market, offering options for further scholarships, trainings, internships and apprenticeships.
- Some countries have dedicated programmes for youth employment, such as the Plurinational State of Bolivia’s “Empleo Digno” programme, the “Youth and Employment” programme of the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Labour, and the Employment Fund and Integrated Support Programme for Informal Sector Actors in Cameroon.
- Many contributors cited programmes offered worldwide by the United Nations, such as the UN Volunteers programme (UNV), as well as supportive organizations such as the World Youth Bank Network in Nepal.
- However, two issues were raised regarding such resources and services: 1) Programme implementation often fails to deliver as promised, and 2) lack of access to information prevents young people, especially the most marginalised, to seize some of the opportunities available.
3) Do you think that volunteerism and internships can adequately prepare young people for future paid employment?
- Most contributors believe than volunteerism and internships offer a good chance to learn and put into practice new practical skills. They also allow young people to familiarize themselves with a work environment and provide important opportunities to network. This week, young contributors all encouraged one another to get engaged in volunteerism and internships.
- However, there remains a lack of paid internships. Even when internships are remunerated, several young people share the view that companies “use” interns as cheap labour, and that internships do not always lead to decent employment, despite the skills and motivation young people will have demonstrated.
- The rural/urban divide was again noted, with contributors highlighting that internships are often only available to people living in urban areas and aspiring for jobs in the third sector.
- This week’s contributors mentioned as a useful platform the National Development Volunteer Service (NDVS) in Nepal, as well as opportunities offered to youth within the UN system. However, lack of access to information about internship opportunities prevents young people from seizing them.
In your view, what role should vocational training play in preparing young people for the labour market?
- Vocational trainings are a very valid option for gaining practical work skills. They prepare trainees for jobs that are based on manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic, and equip them with tangible relevant skills. Opportunities for vocational training remain scarce and it has been highlighted that they do not often lead to decent and well-paid employment.
- Guadeloupe offers a vocational training programme for young people from the age of 16. Upon completion of this programme, young people have demonstrated that they have gained not only the skills - but also the self-confidence and autonomy - to seek employment. Such a programme also offers an alternative for people who may not suit the traditional educational curricula.
- Germany was cited as a leading example in terms of integrating apprenticeships into education. Typically, students will enter a two- to three-year apprenticeship at the end of secondary education, with rotating periods between technical college and working in a company.
How do you view the role of non-formal education in job preparation? How has informal education influenced your job preparedness?
- Non-formal education can provide young people with key skills which are not taught through formal education. It is also an important path for people who do not have the opportunity to access formal education.
- Cultural activities, such as participating in youth groups dedicated to dancing or theatre, were cited as valuable for learning how to interact with others and developing personal skills that are useful and transferable to future employment.
- Non-formal education can be very complementary to formal systems, as it offers life skills which are normally inaccessible through formal education.
- Learning from experience is very important: attending seminars or trainings which include people from different backgrounds allows for young people to network and learn from one another.
Are there any social/political/cultural factors which you have perceived to be an obstacle/challenge to your candidacy for employment?
- Among most participants, there is a general feeling that discriminatory practices in the labour market are in part responsible for the lack of inclusion of young people in the labour market. Young people are often discriminated against on the basis of age, gender, region of origin, nationality, ability or disability, and ethnic background.
- Access to government employment is often given to people who know someone already working in government, making the possibility of social ascension very difficult. Employment within government institutions is also often awarded to people who are members of the same political party as the party in power.
What are your top 1-3 recommendations for policymakers towards ensuring young people are adequately and appropriately prepared for the job market in your country?
- The top 3 recommendations as voted by participants on our Facebook page are: 1) Provide practical opportunities and encourage entrepreneurship and alternative careers; 2) After policies are put in place, ensure that they are enforced and implemented; 3) Ensure inclusive, non-discriminatory and equal opportunity practices.
Please join us on Tuesday, 25 October for Week III of the e-discussion, which will focus on Looking for a Job. I’m pleased to welcome Professor Julian May and Kathleen Diga from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, who will be your new moderators for Week III.