World Youth Skills Day highlights problems and solutions facing young people
On Monday July 15 it was the UN’s World Youth Skills Day, a day for various agencies, organisations and individuals to reflect on the efforts they’re doing in this arena. For Challenges, such work has been a priority since our foundation 20 years ago.
We know that youth unemployment is on the rise and is one of the most pressing problems facing world economies, particularly those in emerging markets.
The scale of the problem is vast. The UN reckons that over the next 10 years more than 475 million new jobs will need to be created for the 73 million young people currently unemployed and the 40 million young people forecasted to join the labour market each year. And these numbers — as monumental as they are — don’t address the skills gaps facing young people, nor the poor quality of employment on offer.
For those in vulnerable employment, the numbers are even more stark. About 1.44 billion people across the world don’t have secure incomes. Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia — two critical areas where Challenges operates — account for about half of these numbers, according to the UN.
Challenges has long been focused on supporting the youth market, providing them with skills as they transition towards formal employment and entrepreneurship. Since 1999 we’ve worked with some 3000 SMEs in 54 countries, with many of these initiatives directly providing training and/or employment opportunities for thousands of young people. In the past five years alone, we’ve put more than 1700 young people through accredited business training from our strategic partners, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Most of these young people undertook work placements within SMEs as part of these CMI Professional Consulting/Management and Leadership courses, giving them invaluable work experience, while also — under Challenges’ mentorship — supporting the businesses by undertaking baseline assessments, market insights, marketing, and other business development and growth services. Our work has shown the contribution young people can play in development and enterprise growth. We know young people can have impact on the local economy and as well as gain the right skills for ongoing employment. From our impact survey of the above programme, 77% of young people attributed the experience gained from their placement to their employment. Additionally, 68% of businesses that implemented recommendations directed by the young people’s support to their business, increased revenue.
In short, we believe that by helping to create a skilled workforce and supporting small businesses to expand, we can drive sustainable job growth and improve prospects for local economies and the people who live and work within them.
Monday’s World Youth Skills Day offered us the perfect opportunity to highlight a few of the projects we’re currently involved in that support the skills development of young people. These ranged from across Sub-Saharan Africa, and on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn feeds, we shared examples from our teams in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.
We know there are massive global challenges facing us — climate change, unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, conflict, and migration. There is, clearly, no easy or quick fix to these issues, but as a social business, all of the Challenges teams recognise that a multi-layered and strategic approach to supporting and up-skilling young people while also offering business growth services to small and growing businesses is key to addressing several of these issues within local ecosystems.
In Ethiopia, our RISE project is the latest in a long list of Challenges initiatives designed to up-skill young people while also supporting sustainable business growth. In Addis Ababa, we’ve trained 20 young professionals and given them placements in social enterprises where they’re supporting each business to become investment ready. This is an immersive training approach that gives the young professionals the unique opportunity to access all areas of a business and enables them to understand the competing tasks managers must balance in order to successfully run an enterprise. This is a project that’s being run in partnership with the local British Council office and R&D Outsourcing and Entrepreneurship Centre.
In Ghana we’re working with the International Organization for Migration to provide skills, training and hope to about 50 returning Ghanaian migrants. As part of this project Team Ghana is delivering employability and entrepreneurial training to young people, helping them to not only find jobs but to also create them through starting up their own enterprise. Our IOM programme follows a multi-year project that put more than 750 young people in to work placements in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale businesses. Just under 100 of those went on to complete a CMI qualification.
In Malawi, Challenges has recruited and trained six young adults as Machine Operators for Value Addition Centres as part of our CROPS Project in Malawi. Each of these youths has acquired key skills in the operation and maintenance of processing machines through the training programme developed and offered by Challenges.
In Rwanda we’re providing tailored entrepreneurship training to disadvantaged youth in the southern province in Rwanda. More than 100 young people — the majority women — have received this critical training, while we’ve also supported start-up businesses supporting African youth.
In Uganda we’re putting the final touches to a massive youth internship programme that will provide structured support to young people through work-based placements. We’ll reveal more about this exciting project in the next couple of weeks, but it follows several years of CMI training in which our Uganda team delivered qualifications to young people in Kampala and saw about 150 take part in work placements.
And in Zambia, we’ve partnered with Musika Zambia to deliver accredited CMI tailored business skills training to rural agro dealers in western and central provinces. The training is aimed to promote best practice, improve quality and eventually scale up these businesses. More than 200 people, mostly women, have received this training.
The above is just a quick snapshot of the work Challenges is doing right now (have a look at our website for more examples). Other projects that work towards sustainable employment and development are in the pipeline in these countries as well as in other locations, and we’re confident that they will add further weight to the considerable impact that Challenges has already had within youth employment over the past 20 years.