My name is Sarah Sladen and I direct the Youth Economic Opportunities Network (YEO Network) at Making Cents International in Washington, DC.
I appreciate the discussion so far - it’s particularly helpful to hear about some of specific strategies that Unilever and others here are deploying to address lifelong learning, reskilling, and employability. Nathan, thank you for sharing some of the great resources Pearson is developing!
As background, since 2007 the YEO Network has been a global platform for ~35k youth development experts and innovators to share knowledge and connect on critical technical and cross-cutting challenges that impact youth economic opportunity.
Two years ago, our team developed a new learning agenda for the YEO Network and our annual Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit (youtheosummit.org) focused on the changing nature of work for young people in developing contexts. We were motivated by a learning gap between “future of work” discussions dominated by robots, the decentralization of labor and the gig economy in wealthier regions, and what we know of young people in search of livelihoods in some of the poorest areas.
Through a series of roundtables and at the Summit, we engaged industry leaders to share their perspectives on how the changing world of work is impacting their business. We heard a few things from companies and I’m curious if you, or other discussants here, have encountered similar challenges / issues:
- Companies need to do more to signal to young people what the opportunities are within their business (and across their supply chains).
We heard this from companies working in tech, logistics and transportation, hospitality and tourism, and healthcare. Young people don’t always understand an industry (what opportunities are available from the ground up). In some cases, there is also an expectation gap between how youth perceive the job and what the job is in practice.
E.g., in response to this challenge, Johnson & Johnson has a work-based learning program that engages high-school students and exposes to the healthcare industry early to generate interest in these types of careers. Marriott and Hilton have also deployed programs to engage youth early and expose them to their industries. A few of you have remarked on the need to bring pieces of the system together (educators, trainers, employers) and we think these types of programs are a good step in that direction…
Is Unilever or others looking at youth engagement as a key piece of their skilling and talent acquisition strategy?
- More companies recognize the value of work-based learning (or apprenticeships) but challenges include buy-in and cost, time, finding and scaling mentorship programs inside companies, and training and equipping front-line managers with the tools and resources they need to work with Opportunity Youth (to help ensure retention and growth).
Are these familiar challenges and/or have you identified specific strategies to address hiring and training on the job that you can share? What would be the most useful resource or tool for your company when it comes to creating work-based learning programs, particularly for entry-level youth? Are there policy-level changes that would enable your business to do more on work-based learning?
- Greater interest in youth by business is positive (and crucial), particularly in a changing world of work. We are interested in hearing more from companies about whether you have or are considering specific youth-inclusive approaches that are embedded into the business strategy, and that define youth as an essential part of your sustainability and growth - as consumers, suppliers, and a dynamic and valuable labor force worthy of investment? (much in the same way that many companies now view gender-inclusion as a core part of their sustainability).