Equipping young people with the skills of the past for the work of the future


Abeer Al Fouti


Today the world marks an International Youth Skills Day like no other – 2020 not only heralded the beginning of a new decade but the beginnings of a new, unforeseeable world; one that will be indelibly marked by COVID-19. With this new world must come a new way of doing things and organisations like ours must lead this new thinking across the philanthropic world.

Young people across the globe have been hardest hit by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the world’s economy to recover, young people must be front and centre of the recovery. This means ensuring young people have the skills, both modern and traditional, that will enable them to drive an inclusive recovery and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals during this decade of action.

Prior to the onset of COVID-19, young people (aged 15 to 24) were already three times more likely to be deprived of employment, education or training, with 126 million young workers in extreme and moderate poverty worldwide[1].

Many young people are now at risk of being left behind due to COVID-19, with educational and economic opportunities lost at a crucial stage of their life development. The increase in unemployment as a result of the pandemic is expected to be greater than in the aftermath of the 2009 global financial crisis. Based on that experience, we know that without targeted policy intervention, it is likely that young people will again be disproportionately affected by a global recession.

While governments, business and civil society are actively taking steps to address youth unemployment, it is clear that these efforts need urgent reconsideration. In particular, it is not enough for philanthropic and charitable organisations to train young people with generic skills that are unlikely to result in long-term job prospects.

Instead, it’s important that NGOs focus on bridging the market skills gap, supporting job creation initiatives that target youth, bridging employment and education systems and promoting a dynamic labour market. This can be done by building successful partnerships with educational, government and private sector organisations to ensure effectiveness. It will also help to create holistic and coherent programs for unemployed youth to get the skills they need and encourage employers to hire them.

Alwaleed Philanthropies has successfully worked with several partners including Save the Children and the World Scouts Foundation in the field of youth development, training and job creation. A great example of this is the work we are doing with Turquoise Mountain. This project aims to preserve and regenerate historic areas and communities with a rich cultural heritage and to revive traditional crafts, to create jobs, skills and a renewed sense of pride. We work with them to support young people who are taught traditional crafts and produce authentic Middle Eastern artisan products which are subsequently sold as luxury goods or into 5-star hotels.  This not only connects young people to their culture and heritage, but our partnership with the private sector has created a viable long-term economic model.

Providing young people with the opportunity to learn more traditional skills not only helps them preserve and protect their culture and heritage, but also helps them grow into the next generation of leaders. Creating a marketplace for their products also allows these artisans to thrive and have the confidence to build the entrepreneurial spirit that we desperately need. If these young people are to build a new world, it is more important than ever that they know their history, so that they can chart a better course for the future.

We cannot let the havoc caused by COVID-19 lead to a lost generation of young people. Throughout this crisis, the response of young people across the world – through health promotion, volunteering and innovation – is a great cause for hope. When COVID-19 becomes history, it is important that young people do not lose the skills of old that will lead to a new world.

Abeer Al Fouti is Executive Manager at Alwaleed Philanthropies, an international philanthropy organisation that has been supporting charity initiatives in 189 countries and across 1,000 projects for 40 years, reaching more than one billion beneficiaries around the world.

Tagged in: Covid-19 Next Philanthropy

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