The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an agency aimed at building peace, eradicating poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue, is launching a Global Skills Academy to equip one million young persons with employability and resilience skills to help them find jobs during the looming recession. The project called ‘Skills for a Resilient Youth in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond’ was unveiled by the organisation on World Youth Skills Day celebrated on 15 July.
Stefania Giannini, assistant director-general for education at UNESCO, says the crisis has highlighted the urgency of equipping youth with the right skills to accelerate the transition to more inclusive, sustainable and resilient economies. She says this requires massive investment in education and skills training and expanded partnerships with employers to narrow the gap between demand for skills and the workplace.
“Members of UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition launched in March to support countries to develop inclusive learning solutions are teaming up to provide youth with opportunities to gain digital skills and other competences through free access to online skills development programmes. Partners’ offers will be pooled within the Global Skills Academy providing a one-stop access to training opportunities,” says Giannini.
Founding partners include Coursera, Dior, Festo, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Orange Digital Centres and PIX, while other partner organisations including ILO, OECD and WorldSkills Competition which will also contribute to the project. Skills in fields such as data analytics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning are in demand in labour markets around the world, yet many education and training systems lack the capacities needed to prepare youth for employment in these areas.
According to the assistant director-general for education, the Global Skills Academy will operate through a matching process facilitated by UNEVOC, UNESCO’s global network for institutions specialised in technical and vocational education and training. She says detailed information about available trainings will be shared with the 250 UNEVOC Centres in over 160 member states which will identify interested participants and connect them to the coalition members’ training platforms, with outreach to disadvantaged learners being a priority.
“The impact of the pandemic on education and employment has been dramatic with students enrolled in training institutions and apprentices being particularly affected by closures as they are more dependent on practical training and hardware only available in training centres and workplaces. The recent UN secretary general’s policy brief on the ‘The World of Work and COVID-19’, states the young account for more than 40% of people employed in hard-hit sectors worldwide and even before the crisis hit, 267 million young people were not in employment, education or training,” says Giannini.