It's World Youth Skills Day - But What Skills Do We Value in 2021
Students from Scoil Muire, Greenhills. Co. Tipperary who took part in Young Social Innovators.
In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 15th as World Youth Skills Day, to celebrate the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.
This year, World Youth Skills Day is taking place in a challenging context, against the continued backdrop of COVID-19.
The impact of the pandemic on young people, in particular, has been profound with unprecedented interruptions to education and learning, opportunities for travel, as well as work placements and internships - all of the usual mechanisms through which young people learn and develop new skills.
What the pandemic did do however, was to force a rethink about how we live, work and learn in the 21st century, the skills we place a value on, and the purpose for which they are being developed.
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread, the world all of a sudden felt a much smaller place and our interdependence on each other as part of one global human family became much more apparent. As the scale of the crisis grew, we looked to the scientists and the medical community. Through international collaboration, information sharing and innovation, doctors developed new ways of treating Covid-19 patients and vaccines were developed to help curb the spread and reduce the impact of the virus on human health globally.
The driving force of this rapid response was not financial but social in nature – simply to stop people dying. Admittedly, there is a long way to go to ensure that people everywhere receive equal access to vaccines and that politics and financial gain remain secondary to the goal of saving lives.
YSI has taught me that when communities near and far come together regardless of their gender, race, background or sexuality that we are a nation and world of extraordinary people when we're at our best and when we accept all walks of life who are capable of standing up for what's right and allowing our voices to be heard in society.
Covid-19 has fast-tracked many societal changes that were perhaps looming far on the horizon but considered too much of a shift from the norm to be progressed at any real pace. The move towards a 4-day working week, for example, is gaining traction with Iceland the latest country to trial such a move. The importance of nature and outdoor spaces was never so much in focus as during the pandemic. While climate activism had been gaining traction, driven in large part by a global youth movement, we are seeing an increased focus on how, at a global scale, we can strike a balance between the pursuit of entrepreneurial goals and our impact on the world's fragile eco-system.
Large corporations are being called on to assess their ethical complicance - to scrutinized, not only their own business, but all of those involved in their supply chains to ensure that the rights of people, communities and the environments in which they are working are being respected.
In many cases it is young people who are driving this change as they hold companies and brands to account over issues of environmental sustainability, worker’s rights, ethical production and social responsibility. The world is changing and Covid-19 has forced a global awakening and a seismic shift in our belief around what is possible.
We didn’t think that overnight, entire populations would be able to work remotely, that working hours could be adapted to accommodate the needs of families and children and that students could access education from home. While far from perfect for many, it showed what is possible when necessity demands it.
Young people are demanding different. They want a different world and they want to help make that difference. Research by Young Social Innovators revealed that for 2 in 5 young people, making a difference in the world is, for them, the greatest sign of a life well-lived.
The skills that we should be encouraging in our young people are those needed to tackle the social issues impacting people, communities and the environment the world over, many of which have been exacerbated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not so much that the skills themselves that need to be rethought but rather the purpose for which they are being applied.
The relentless pursuit of what is perceived as ‘success’ is having a detrimental impact, not only on our planet, but on our own physical and mental wellbeing. Young people are now increasingly looking at ‘success’ as a concept that must also take into account the effect one has on the world around them and the legacy that they leave behind, and that can only be a good thing.
YSI has taught me that we are all interconnected and share many things in life. It is important to acknowledge how we can help each other and work together for the common good. We can get involved in our community but also learn how to engage on a more global level and instill change.
Young Social Innovators has spent 20 years committed to the idea that young people have the ingenuity and the sense of social responsibility to make real changes to the societies they live in.
Through social innovation education, the youth of today can develop the skills and attributes needed to address complex problems facing humanity and the planet. Never before has this type of education been more important.The skills developed through social innovation learning and practice are the same skills required for employment and entrepreneurship – critical thinking, collaboration, innovation, problem solving, communications etc – it is simply how they are put to use that makes the world of difference.