In a world of social disparities, where education has been severely disrupted by

COVID-19 and the spectre of climate change looms, young people could be



being pessimistic about their futures.

However, our new poll shows high levels of optimism about the chance of having

the career they want. Young people know the challenges, but are confident they can

overcome them.

Conducted through UNICEF’s U-report platform –

a messaging tool that empowers young people to speak out on issues that

matter to them –

the poll found that 63% of the almost 11,000 youth across

136 countries who took the survey believe it is likely they will have the

career they want in the future.

So why are many young people so positive?

And what would the almost two in five young people who are pessimistic

like to see to help them achieve their potential?

On World Youth Skills Day, we spoke with a small group of youth to

help understand what is driving this optimism and what challenges they are

worried about.

Here is what we learned from them.

Building resilience and adaptability through the pandemic

I wish life was a game which came with instructions, but unfortunately we don’t have that roadmap that can tell us exactly what we should do to get to where we want to be.

—Praise Majwafi, 22, South Africa

A topic we talked about was the impact of the pandemic on young people.

Participants agreed that because the past year has been so challenging, it has

taught them to manage through uncertainty.

“The pandemic has given us a crash-course in resilience and adaptability,” said

23-year old Sana Farooq, the co-founder of a social enterprise in Pakistan called

The Red Code.

“Being flexible and adaptable is something we’ve all had to get used to,”

added 22-year old Praise Majwafi, a social entrepreneur from South Africa.

Having been forced to manage through a very challenging year may have given

many young people the confidence that if they can overcome this, they can overcome anything.

“In the face of hardship, we always have the possibility to stagnate or to thrive.

And that’s the motto I wake up to every day; thrive to survive,” said 25-year old

Andrea De Remes, co-founder of an e-learning education platform

called Erandi Aprende, which provides resources, tools and

educational programmes to get young girls aged 8-12 interested in

science and technology. “I think the youth have the power, tools and

opportunities to make that happen.”

Today’s education system isn’t fully meeting the needs of young people

I feel like I am learning all the theory and the content which is really important, but not the practical skills I will need later in the field,

which is a huge miss.

—Ulises Brengi, 21, Argentina

When asked what would make the biggest difference for them to

achieve their career goals, 32% of the young people who took the U-report poll

selected job-ready skills programmes in school, ahead of things like access to

on-the-job training (28%), access to relevant online resources (20%), and a good mentor (19%).

“The one thing that would make the biggest difference to me is to actually learn

the skills that the job market will require from me once I graduate from university,”

said 21-year old Ulises Brengi, a landscape architecture student from Argentina.

Insights like this should inform how education systems and youth programmes are

designed and rolled out, working alongside policies designed to create jobs and

encourage entrepreneurship.

Soft skills are just as important as technical abilities

We are feeling disconnected, and what

does it come down to? It’s about communication. And more than anything

for me, it’s about active listening.

—Andrea De Remes, 25, Mexico

Learning job-ready skills isn’t just about acquiring the technical abilities to do the job;

soft skills are just as important. We all agreed that to be successful,

young people will need to become lifelong learners and build strong soft

skills such as leadership, creativity and communication.

“As an extrovert, I sometimes struggle to take a backseat and sit down and listen

to people,” said Andrea. “That’s something I want to work on.”

Sana spoke about the importance of active listening, too. “Every day, I interact

with people with disabilities, with community leaders, with women and with children.

Listening to them is key as it’s the only way to begin to understand the problems

they are facing,” she said.

The same principle applies when designing upskilling solutions for youth.

The only way to create sustainable skills programmes is by involving young people themselves.

By continuing to listen to them, businesses, governments, international

organizations and other stakeholders can better understand the challenges

young people are facing and engage them in the development of solutions.