The world is confronted with the twin challenge of making youth employable and achieving sustainable development. This has substantial implications on education and training systems.
In 2011, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics estimated that 123 million young people worldwide lacked basic literacy skills, weakening their opportunities to enter further education and training, and subsequently the labour market. As many as 73 million young people were estimated to be unemployed in 2013. This situation is affecting developing and developed countries alike. Nearly one in five young people in OECD countries is neither employed nor attending education or training (NEET). The trend is consistent in the case of many developing countries: two-thirds of the young population are vulnerable which means they are unemployed, in irregular employment, trapped in informal employment and activities that limit career options or neither in the labour force, nor in education or training. Young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. When they are successful in leaving education systems, in most cases their transition to the labour market does not run smoothly due to a skills gap or mismatch, or the lack of available jobs. In many cases, when they are employed, young people are engaged in jobs that do not bring out their full potential or are trapped in low-wage employment. This situation has societal, economic and individual negative implications. It creates social and political instability, preventing economies from realizing the full potential of their labour force, and constraining productivity and economic growth. It ultimately forfeits the young generation of the capacity to be productive and enjoy well-being.
Given deep concerns about the sustainability of current development trajectories, there is increasingly a call for changing modes of production and new investments in green economies. Economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound development is required. In this context the rationale for investing in green skills is clear, both with regard to the interests of present and future generations, and because governments want to seize the potential for job-friendly transitions to green economies and societies. The transition to a greener economy can create new employment opportunities as well as improved skills prospects. However, experience in many countries has shown that skills bottlenecks can be a serious impediment for green investments and growth. The timeliness or the lack thereof with which TVET systems engage with sustainability concerns, and the demand for green skills in particular, can enhance their responsiveness to labour-market demand for skills, or widen further the disconnect with the world of work.
Given the challenges of making youth employable and achieving sustainable development, while addressing the skills bottlenecks, governments increasingly look at education and skills for effective responses.
Where we stand
2015 marks the end of the Education for All (EFA) initiative and global and regional debates are now focusing on shaping a new development agenda and a set of global education targets. Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and skills development feature prominently in these discussions. UNESCO presented at its General Conference in November 2013 a Concept Note on the Post-2015 Education agenda and early in 2014 developed a position paper on Education Post-2015. In this paper UNESCO advocates for a single, clearly-defined, global education agenda, which should be an integral part of the broader international development framework and proposes the following overarching education goal: ‘to ensure equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030’. If the global community agrees, these agenda could be used to define measurable targets to which countries could then commit and be held accountable to. UNESCO proposes a set of ten targets, organized in six priority areas.
One priority area deals with skills for work and life and aims to ensure that ‘all young people and adults have equitable opportunities to access and complete formal and non-formal technical and vocational education and training relevant to the world of work, as well as lifelong learning opportunities’. Targets 5 and 6 refer directly to this priority area, advocating for an increase in the proportion of young people with relevant knowledge and skills to access decent work as well as an increase in the proportion of adults participating in continuing education and training.
In addition to enabling access to decent work and the acquiring of knowledge and skills specific to a profession, an occupation or a trade, it is suggested that the content of learning must promote, among others, problem-solving, entrepreneurship and environmental skills protection. It must also foster a desire and capacity for lifelong learning, learning to learn and learning to live together, all of which are essential to the realization of shared prosperity and sustainable development.
The proposed agenda therefore aims to address the issue of TVET and skills in an integrated way, youth skills and competences, up-skilling and reskilling of low-skilled youth and adults, facilitating transition from school to work, ensuring quality learning for all, and recognizing and validating non-formal and informal learning. Meeting occupational skills shortages gaps to support transition to inclusive and green economic transitions and transferring green skills and competences to create societies that adhere to the principles of sustainable development also emerge as urgent undertakings. Further work and consultations on the proposed priority areas and targets are currently underway, the outcomes of which will be submitted to the World Education Forum 2015 in Korea. In this Forum Member States will agree on a position on education to be promoted as part of the global development agenda that will be finalized at the UN Summit in New York in September 2015.
Consistent with the developments outlined above and guided by the recommendations of the Shanghai Consensus, UNESCO-UNEVOC has organized a series of regional consultations in five regions – Africa, the Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The outcomes of these consultations will be discussed in light of the post-2015 development agenda.
The regional work will culminate in a global dialogue and inform the post-2015 agenda. It is in view of this that UNESCO-UNEVOC is organizing the Global Forum on Skills for Work and Life Post-2015. The Forum seeks to contribute to the ongoing debate, enriching the thought processes behind the positioning of TVET in the post-2015 agenda. As a follow-up to UNEVOC’s regional consultation in 2013, the forum will utilize cross-regional networking and partnership as platforms to create synergy and confidence in the contribution of TVET in the post-2015 agenda.
The Global Forum on Skills for Work and Life aims to:
- contribute to and inform the global debate on the vital topics of youth, skills and greening TVET in the context of the post-2015 development agenda;
- engage multiple stakeholders in identifying concrete and coherent global directions, policy measures and programmatic interventions in the areas of youth employability, skills development and greening skills and competencies through TVET ;
- share cross-regional, multi-stakeholder, multi-level perspectives and draw analysis from the progress to map a global TVET outlook beyond 2015;
- elaborate concrete future interventions through Network and partnership platforms, in particular the UNEVOC Network.
- Fresh TVET Outlook Report: TVET Post-2015
- Compilation of selected promising practices and success stories
- Input into TVET-related global action programming on education for sustainable development (ESD) at the World Conference on ESD in Japan in November 2014
- Mechanisms to catalyse support to Networks.
The Forum is expected to attract participants from UNESCO’s Member States through the UNEVOC Centres (consisting of government agencies, national bodies and TVET institutions), from the private sector SMEs, from international and regional organizations and development agencies, and selected youth organizations. Participants from the UN agencies in Bonn working collectively towards sustainable development are also invited.
Source: UNESCO-UNEVOC Bulletin 27 / September 2014