The celebration of the World Youth Skills Day, traditionally organized by the Permanent Missions of Portugal and Sri Lanka, together with UNESCO, ILO and the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, brought together the voices of high-level government representatives, senior UN officials, civil society, academia and youth organizations. Participants focused on the projections on the future of work and life in the age of technological innovation, social and demographic transformation and climate change threats.
Opening the meeting, H.E. Mr. Francisco Antonio Duarte Lopes, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations, conveyed the pressing need to invest in youth’s holistic development, quoting Minister of Education, H. E. Mr. Tiago Brandão Rodrigues – “Amongst other commitments allow me to underline the importance of the investment in youth empowerment and digital skills, critical thinking and creativity, as well as promoting opportunities and creating resources for all young people, enabling youth to contribute and participate with transformative energy”.
Touching on skills acquisition and learning, H.E. Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, President of the General Assembly, emphasized that “lifelong learning must be at the heart of public policies”. Young people account for one-third of the unemployed globally, and over the next decade, 40 million jobs must be created every year just to keep pace with the growing population.
UNESCO Director-General Ms. Audrey Azoulay took this theme further to situate lifelong learning as a right within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “Strategically, we need to change our paradigm and consider the right to education as a broader ‘right to lifelong learning’ to meet the SDG 4 objective of offering lifelong learning opportunities for all.” She also elaborated on how online learning and digital certifications are promising platforms to help youth learn continuously.
Similarly, Ms. Ana Maria Menéndez, Under Secretary-General and Senior Advisor on Policy, remarked that “quality education and lifelong learning are central in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. “Youth skills will also be crucial in addressing the global climate emergency and saving our planet”, and thus a valuable contribution in tackling the challenges of our collective future.
Sharing insights from ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work report, Director-General Mr. Guy Ryder emphasized that education and training policies must be consistent with job creation policies. “In a world where skills are short-lived, active labor market policies need to become proactive and anticipate and support people through future work transitions, building a life-long active society.”
This synergy between youth’s education and job creation calls for a transformation from traditional to relevant education systems, said UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake. She re-emphasized “the need for governments to reshape their policies and especially our education systems to adapt and encourage young people to ‘learn to learn’ ”. She also invited Maurice, a young girls’ and women’s rights advocate from the Philippines, to share her experience.
As co-chair, Mr. Satya Rodrigo, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of Sri Lanka to the UN, concluded the opening segment by echoing the importance of preparing youths for the future. “It is estimated that 4 out of 5 children in primary school today will be employed in sectors that do not currently exist. As such, ‘learning to learn for life and work’ is useful and timely, as we look towards effective transition from traditional skills to skills geared for the future.”
The interactive dialogue featured participation of ministers, young leaders, skills champions and representatives of employers’ and labor organizations.
The event was complemented by an exhibition on “Inspiring Youth and Improving Perception for Skills”, organized by WorldSkills and UNESCO, in partnership with the Permanent Missions of Sri Lanka and Portugal. The exhibition included demonstrations from World Skills Competition Champions who shared how youth skill development and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) have changed their lives. The exhibition also featured selected photos from the UNESCO-UNEVOC SkillsinAction Photo Competition and "Inspiring Youth in TVET" Story Series.