On July 15 every year, World Youth Skills Day is marked to promote youth skills development and abilities. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (UNEVOC) network yesterday joined the global celebrations raising awareness about the importance of youth skills development.
This year's World Youth Skills Day 2019 ran under the theme, "Learning to learn for life and work". Today, there are 1,2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years, accounting for 16 percent of the global population.
Active engagement of youth in sustainable development efforts is central to achieving sustainable, inclusive and stable societies, and to averting the worst threats and challenges to sustainable development, including the impacts of climate change, unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, conflict and migration.
However, studies show that young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs, greater labour market inequalities, and longer and more insecure school-to-work transitions.
In addition, women are more likely to be underemployed and underpaid, and to undertake part-time jobs or work under temporary contracts. The day is of great importance to the country as youths are critical to achieve the country's vision of becoming an upper middle income economy by 2030.
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), over 100 million youths entering the African labour market will be unemployed by 2030 if current trends continue. African youth (15-24 years) constitute about 37 percent of the working age population, but account for more than 60 percent of all unemployed people in Africa, according to AfDB. In Zimbabwe unemployment is also at record highs.
The National Association of Youth Organisations (Nayo) says 90 percent of youths in the country are unemployed, with universities and colleges churning out graduates that fail to secure jobs. Youths currently face the brunt of unemployment in Zimbabwe, educated and qualified, yet without decent jobs.
The causes of unemployment are manifold, including the incompatibility between the curriculum and the needs of the industry in changing times. As a result of this disjuncture, graduates' skills are not relevant to the needs of the communities and nation at large.
Furthermore, the shrinking economy cannot absorb all the youths. The effects of high youth unemployment include drug abuse, violence and crime, promiscuity leading to prostitution where youths end up contracting HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections that can be detrimental to their health.
Society has to ultimately pay for the human costs of failing to support people in early childhood, in schooling, parenting and dealing with illnesses at an early stage through the building of prisons, institutions for the mentally ill and hospitals.
It would contribute greatly to human happiness and a fruitful society if the resources devoted to addressing this failure could be devoted to supporting them connect with society, in that education and the gaining of skills are essential.
Training is important at a time when many unskilled jobs are disappearing and when young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than their elders. In developing nations, in which there is much poverty, it remains a priority to help disadvantaged young people connect with society and gain skills through receiving a basic education.
That can make all the difference between a life spent in and out of prison and a life of stable relationships in the wider community. It is equally striking that youths in the country are suffering from mental and physical illness and addiction.
Of course, the learning of skills and access to education are not simply about building a more prosperous society.
They are about helping people, each of whom is precious, to grow in respect of themselves and others, to develop their gifts and to build good relationships with others and with their world. Skills matter because people matter. Going forward, Government should develop a comprehensive national employment policy in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
There is need for strong involvement of the National Manpower Advisory Council (NAMACO) in employment policy issues and employment creation. Zimbabwe should adopt a multi-sectoral approach involving all relevant ministries and civil society organisations working on youth labour and employment issues to create synergies in attacking unemployment. Education 5.0 should be fully funded as it makes education and training compatible with the needs of industry - the world of work.
Government should carry out regular skills requirements audit in the economy so that education and training respond to the needs of industry. This should be augmented by wide dissemination of the skills requirements of the economy through career guidance and counselling sessions for students to make informed decisions.
There is also need for the establishment of a coordinated labour market information system to monitor labour market trends and facilitate the designing, planning and monitoring of policies and programmes geared at employment generation.
With the current economic environment, the country as a whole should introduce a comprehensive incomes policy to address discrepancies in salaries in the private and public sectors. Furthermore, investments are to be made into the informal sector to allow for easy access of credit and general reform of regulations to allow the development of the sector.
Firms should also put in place an efficient apprenticeship system so that youths enhance their skills by training on the job. Government should strengthen entrepreneurship education in schools and tertiary institutions to foster the development of an entrepreneurial culture among youths to facilitate self-employment.
More money should be directed into facilities that will provide loans and grants to assist the needy in financing their education in vocational training colleges, technical colleges and universities. In view of the afore-stated recommendations, it is prudent for the country to review the current national youth employment policy to address the causes and challenges of youth employment in the country.
There is need to interrogate major youth challenges such as job availability and quality, rights to work, social protection, entrepreneurship and self-employment, education and training as well as issues of minimum wages. Addressing youth unemployment in Zimbabwe will curb the adverse effects of youth engaging in drug abuse, violence and crime and promiscuity leading to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Additionally, this is the opportunity to deliberate on these critical issues, which will lead to a comprehensive national youth employment policy that promotes decent work for young people through their participation in socio-economic and political development of the country.