World Youth Skills Day, celebrated every year on 15 July, is an opportunity to reflect on the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship. The Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences - BUITEMS (Pakistan), United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) SDG Hub for Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, is a core center of innovation to foster the targets of this Goal, in particular target 8.6: Substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training. In this article, experts from BUITEMS explore this issue from various angles and perspectives:


Preparing the Youth for Uplifting Digital and Physical Economies

By Faisal Khan, Pro-Vice Chancellor of BUITEMS, and Muhammad Nadeem, Assistant Professor at the Department of Computer Engineering, BUITEMS

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the social and economic integration of youngsters, and its impact on young people is very deep and systematic. Young people all over the world had faced lack of job market even before COVID-19. Now, the economic set back has resulted in greater unemployment for this particular group, a situation deteriorated owing to the closure of schools, universities and training centers in many countries.

COVID-19 has impacted the individuals and businesses in ways the world was least prepared for. In particular, as the lockdowns began and physical activities were halted, the workload shifted to the IT industry attributable to its necessary applications in technical and vocational education and training (TVET), education, health, government, banking, as well as private and public sector businesses.

This caused a sheer need to have adequate and secure online working platforms to allow companies, institutions and organizations, in addition to hospitals and medical centers of any kind, to access global information networks and resources necessary to combat the adversities caused by virus. Furthermore, as expressed in the report Education during COVID-19 and beyond, this global pandemic has changed the entire globe’s functions.

Examples of this are the restrictions in a number of existing systems, and the demand to re-examine the role of information technologies in economic productivity and growth. Indeed, countries have established mobility restrictions which have interrupted the normal or regular functioning of society and the economy. This has altered the ways in which communities, businesses and individuals’ connect and transfer knowledge.

As a result, we need to enable the youth to contribute with the uplifting of the digital economy. Key aspects are digital privacy, cybersecurity and mitigation of vulnerabilities. BUITEMS provides guidance and support, and fosters awareness on cybersecurity, jointly with stakeholders like the Digital Rights Foundation. Since the relevance of cybersecurity in digital economy cannot be overstated, training capacity for youth around these issues, is critical for today's world.


From Innovation to Impact and Beyond – Producing the Job-Creators of Tomorrow

By Muhammad Shah Khan, Director of the National Incubation Center (NIC) Quetta, BUITEMS

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the global unemployment figure will cross 200 million people next year, with women and youth workers worst-hit. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is considered to further contribute to this crisis. The traditional way of job creation may not be sufficient to cater this problem. This is a systematic problem and therefore, it needs a systematic solution.

Institutions of higher education, worldwide, may train their students to become entrepreneurs so that they graduate as job-creators rather than as job-seekers. Pakistan is one of the largest young countries in the world with around 63% of the population aged between 15-30. But the unemployment rate among this age group is at 8.5%, one of the highest in the region. Moreover, more than a million jobs must be generated each year to improve labour force participation rates.

The only way through which this large number of jobs can be created is to intensify innovation and entrepreneurial activity. It is well-established that a rise in innovation and entrepreneurial activity in an economy results in a considerable growth of industry clusters, investment and job creation. In order to boost entrepreneurship and innovation as a mindset, the establishment of the National Incubation Center (NIC) Quetta at BUITEMS was envisaged.

NIC Quetta - BUITEMS is mandated to support young men and women to develop sustainable and impactful start-up ventures in order to create jobs, revitalize community, commercialize new technology and strengthen the local as well as the national economy. NIC Quetta is already making an impact. The Center has graduated 42 start-ups that have cumulatively created 662 jobs while generating a cumulated revenue of around USD 650,000.

Besides its start-up program, NIC Quetta has trained 58 microentrepreneurs, 76% of whom are women, through its microenterprise program. The Center has been committed to proposing innovative approaches to impact lives and raise living standards. More collaborative platforms, need to be developed to foster entrepreneurial mindsets and promote entrepreneurial culture if we are to tackle the alarming global youth unemployment rates. This is the only way forward.


Role of International Education in Combating the Pandemic

By Sahar Faiz Khan and Muhammad Jawad Khan, Assistant Professors at the Department of Economics, BUITEMS

A healthy community’s survival depends on various forms of capital including social, cultural, natural, financial, political, built and human capital. Human capital development, being one of the pillars that economies need, is of more attention during the era of a pandemic. The most valuable of all capitals is that invested in human beings. And education is without doubt, the gateway to achieve higher standards of living, specially in the developing world.

Human capital formation is a definite result of education. Outcomes of education can mean an increase in the participation of the labour force, and better earnings. In addition to this, major economic gains are attributed to a well-educated and skilled workforce. Where education changes the fate of many, the quality of education enables workers to become more competent internationally and can bring a massive change in the income levels of masses.

In regard to target 8.6, the role of international schooling system on skill development pays a pivotal role, therefore it can certainly lead to higher wages. A study conducted by Sahar Faiz Khan and Muhammad Jawad Khan, compared graduates of two educational systems in Pakistan and showed a monthly wage gap of medical professionals based on local and international certificates at high school levels.

Building on the results of this study, strategies should be designed to build resilience against the challenges of these times and fully equip the youth with top notch education so that they can adapt to any circumstance. Today, the world is counting on its youth to contribute to the recovery efforts. The international education for human capital development can be used as an important tool to help the youth to recover from the shocks of COVID-19.

Uplifting the standard of local educational systems through advanced curricula adaptation and teacher training programs is a must. A collective and combined effort of public and private sector can bring about a breakthrough change in the educational structure of countries like Pakistan, and open new alternatives so that the bright minds may outshine internationally. In a context of globalization and severe difficulties, this crisis is an opportunity for improvement.


Vocational Training for Young Informal Workers

By Ikram Ullah, Lecturer, Department of Economics, BUITEMS, UNAI Hub for SDG 8.

In today’s world, the proportion of workers in the informal economy exceeds 50% than that of agricultural employment and in the non-agricultural employment by 82%. The trend is on an increasing path, unlike what the older forecasts predicted about the decrease in the size of informal economy. Yet, the informal workers, and young ones in particular, are not only exposed to the threat of economic shock but their abilities to bounce back depend on their resilience. 

A significant factor affecting such resilience is vocational training. It is a vital tool that can diversify the employment prospects for the trainee in the informal economy while leading to improved earnings. The policies for this need to be formulated for the long-term, considering combining various regulatory laws and state interventions aiming to achieve increased productive efficiency and the knack of creating sustainable economic resources.

The first step towards formalization is to reduce the deficits in the decent work. Surprisingly, the absence of social protection in the informal economy has not hindered its size but rather the opposite has taken place in certain countries. Developing countries, including Pakistan, are experiencing a structural shift and this transitioning is vastly into the urban informal economy, where there is abundance of low productivity, low skilled and low wage jobs.

Therefore, there is a need to focus on providing skill training, the outcome of which will be a development in the overall skill profile – increased productivity and efficiency of an informal worker leading to a strengthened economy. Along these lines, the government of Pakistan started a skill development initiative called Kayaab Jawan Youth Development Programme, that has benefitted thousands of young Pakistanis working in informal economy.

Benefits from skill development projects can only be accrued if the curriculum is correctly designed. Furthermore, there are factors that diminish their efficacy, such as length, cultural beliefs, financial factors and the distance to and from training centers. Despite these variables, a prosperous economic future highly depends on opportunities to the youth in the informal economy, by providing them with modern day vocational training.