UK Ambassador Charlie Oliver on the Youth Unemployment Plenary Session at this year's Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Follow Charlie on Twitter: @rlieoliver
One Young World’s delegates of 2013 voted overwhelmingly to include youth unemployment as one of the six plenary topics discussed at this year’s Summit in Johannesburg. Delegate speakers from the UK, France, Burundi, China, Nigeria and Turkey all showcased entrepreneurial initiatives and models that have been successful in lowering youth unemployment.
Social unrest, a consequence of youth unemployment, especially in developing countries was highlighted by Rukayat Olamide (Rukkie Foundation), Adelard Kakunze (Burundi 3.0) and Efehan Danisman (Informal Education Youth Centre). This made their programs all the more valuable.
It was clear that the idea, along with the drive to see it through were more important in making these initiatives a success – each idea discussed required relatively small cash investments. Therefore, all of us out there that have the potential to affect change. Starting small is okay.
While Efehan explained the Informal Education Youth Centre’s role in preparing graduates for the world of work, he rightly took time from his limited allocation to address national governments. He argued that they must do more to prepare young people for the workplace. This has to be part of a longer term solution.
The emphasis of the plenary was clearly on the potential of young people, but the role of government was not overlooked by our Counsellors either. UN Foundation President and CEO, Kathy Calvin and Huffington Post founder and Editor-in-Chief, Arianna Huffington called upon the government to pay greater attention to youth unemployment. Revised school education curriculums that included practical job skills and experiences were absolutely vital in their view.
In addition, the door was left open for big businesses to do more. Both in creating more work opportunities for young people, but also seeking greater opportunities for collaboration to tackle what is clearly a transnational problem. The benefit from sharing best practice across borders became obvious and something that could begin at a greater level immediately.
Yiwen argued that opening up research & development (R&D), particularly a company’s existing technological knowledge, offered entrepreneurs the opportunity to take a fresh perspective on the innovation of larger corporates, while saving on costly R&D themselves. Put simply, win-wins are out there for big business, who when publicly listed, are always duty bound to maximise shareholder value first.
Overall the takeaways were clear. First, we as young people need to act upon our ideas. There is a growing community of like-minded people out there and organisations like One Young World enable our future collaboration. Second, tackling the “skills gap” through education needs to be part of the solution. Third, governments must do more, taking self-interested party politics out of this issue. Young people do not deserve to be brought down by it. Last, we need to be relentless and ignorant of our limitations.
With 73 million young people unemployed in the world this year, the challenge is great. However, these exceptional examples of entrepreneurialism, both as a practice and a mindset, explained to all of us that we can help to tackle the problem of youth unemployment. If this can be combined by a greater level of pro-activity from national governments to educate our young people, One Young World 2013 showed us that change in the near future can be a reality.