This is an era where the future of work is unpredictable due to the increased automation of the workforce. South Asia lags behind several other regions in preparing the next generation of young people with the skills they will need for 21st century work and the dynamics at play in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, only 1 in 4 young people in South Asia are estimated to be on track to gain secondary-level skills necessary for success in the global economy. The Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore said-“Every day, nearly 100,000 young South Asians, a large sports stadium of young people enter the labor market, almost half of them not on track to find 21st-century jobs.”
Moreover, great steps have been made in achieving universal primary education, but South Asia is still home to 28 million out-of-school-children– 10 million at primary level, and 18 million at lower secondary level – and 45% of primary-aged children not learning the basics of reading and math. The result is significant skills and employment challenge – a skills gap that contributes to high levels of unemployment for higher education graduates and large informal economies where young workers are in vulnerable employment.
To respond to this critical economic and social development challenge, UNICEF South Asia and the Global Business Coalition for Education co-hosted a South Asia Youth Skills and Solution Forum. The Forum builds on the work of the UNICEF Generation Unlimited Initiative and GBC-Education’s Youth Skills and Innovation Initiative. The event started on October 29 and will end on October 31 amidst a special function in the beautiful city Mumbai, Maharastra. The Forum had speakers from the government, private sector and youth from South Asia to share their thoughts and experiences on youth skills and employment in the region.
The forum was led to a discussion on the basis of GBC-Education’s Youth Skills and Innovation Report which says “The Evidence-Base for Developing Skills in Youth to succeed in the Evolving South Asian Economy” and UNICEF reports – “Voices of Youth”. National consultants aided in providing localized perspectives throughout the forum through their recommendation.
Nepal had participation at the forum where the Nepali Delegates for South Asia Youth Skills & Solution Forum were Mr. Asish Thakur, Glocal Pvt. Ltd., Mr. Prarthana Sakha, and Mr. Sajal Joshi, Helmets Nepal 4. Ms. Sajja Singh, Yuwa, Mr. Madhav Dhungel, National Youth Council, Ms. Eva Gyawali, Sochai, and Mr. Santosh Gartaula, Bikash Udhyami.
The Forum commenced with visits to project sites, followed by a day of discussions and plenaries between businesses and the public sector focused on identifying entry points and taking action. Attendees included government representatives from throughout South Asia, UNICEF country office representatives, key development partners, civil society members including youth leaders, global and national businesses, and small and medium-sized enterprises in India and across South Asia.
Booth Exhibition Space:
In parallel to the forum, an exhibition space ran from the 30th of October until noon on 31st October. This space had booths as well as mini-library, screening area and photo area. The main purposes of the exhibition space were to enhance the exchange of knowledge by sharing and learning from regionally relevant and scalable solutions addressing the challenges on education, skills, and employment and also to facilitate community building by providing an opportunity for participants to connect and network to find mutual interests and areas of collaboration.
The space included 21 booths clustered in 5 themes including 1) Youth diversity & equitable access, 2) Skills for work, life, and active citizenship, 3) Youth and entrepreneurship, 4) Decent jobs for youth, 5) Technology and skills for the future of work. These booths showcase regionally relevant scalable solutions to address the challenges of education, youth skills, and employment.
The exhibition space had a stall of Glocal Pvt. Ltd, UNFPA Nepal & UNICEF Nepal in the theme –“Skills for work, life and Active Citizenship.” The Social Changemakers and Innovators (SOCHAI), a youth-led nonprofit organization that promotes health, nutrition and socio-economic status of people, particularly women, children and girls through education, innovation and entrepreneurship at grassroot level were introduced in Booth Exhibition in the theme- “Youth and Enterpreneurship.” They represented Nepal in the forum.
The Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Henrietta H. Ford had useful interaction with the Executive Director of Glocal Pvt. Ltd Mr. Asish Thakur about what young people need to succeed in the 21st-century world of work. The interview session taken by Mr. Thakur was able to generate ideas of Ms. Ford regarding youth and the importance of skills to compete in the world of jobs.
The three days event ended with exciting plenary discussions, presentations, discussions, networking sessions, workshops, networking lunch and dinner, followed up with field visits and interview sessions.
The major objective of the event was to demonstrate the need for private sector investment in the next generation of South Asian youth and also to Advance the development of partnerships between the private sector, governments, and international agencies to scale-up sustainable solutions to the youth skills crisis in the region. It also aimed to identify the comparative strengths and entry points for businesses, governments, youth, and development partners to engage in supporting adolescent education, skills, and employment in the region and also to send a powerful signal to youth that their aspirations and needs for education, skills, and employment are a high priority for powerful social, political and economic actors.