COVID has brought the world economic order to a standstill. New-age technologies are transforming the world of work and disrupting business models. The pandemic and lockdowns have also resulted in an unprecedented recession.
Young people make up around one-quarter of the global workforce and unfortunately, the current cohort of global youth will bear the brunt of this economic and social crisis. The World Bank too reiterated this view, when it underscored that the continuous trend toward poverty reduction observed for more than two decades was reversed with the advent of COVID19 – instead of decreasing by 31 million in 2020, as expected before the pandemic, the number of people living in extreme poverty increased by 93 million. Preparing young people to earn and thrive in a post-COVID world requires immediate attention and the grim situation at hand has prompted nations to accelerate resilience building techniques and India is a leader amongst them all.
Reimagining youth skills post-pandemic
Reskilling or upskilling, to be in sync with the latest technological advances, is no longer a choice. It is the only way to take rapid strides ahead. As we observe the UN World Youth Skills Day on 15 July 2021, and celebrate the resilience and creativity of youth throughout the crisis, we also need to address the skills gap with urgency and immediacy. Business models that have lasted for decades are now becoming redundant, pushing industry leaders to constantly transform and open up new revenue streams. An agile, upskilled, on the ball workforce will be the foundation of every industry and hence creating a skilled workforce is a priority we should adopt for surviving and thriving in the post-COVID-19 world.
Government aid for skill development
The Government of India already has in place the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship from the year 2014 itself. It endeavours to coordinate all skill development efforts across the country. Industrial training, apprenticeship and other skill development responsibilities are being successfully shouldered by this Ministry, which is being headed by Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Paving way for relevant education, skill development and entrepreneurship to become fit for the future, is what the Ministry, in collaboration with academia and industries, is aiming to do.
Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has been implementing several initiatives to achieve women empowerment through skill development. For example, the flagship program of the Ministry, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojan strives to promote increased participation of women in the workforce through appropriate skilling and gender mainstreaming of skills. Further, to increase women’s participation in the workforce, Skill India Mission aims to empower women with 10 initiatives in skill development and entrepreneurship.
Economic empowerment and skills development for young women
Skilling girls and young women on a large scale with speed and high standards will help our nation to achieve resilience against any unforeseen disruptions in the future. In fact, investing in young women’s economic empowerment and skills development is one of the most urgent and effective means to drive progress on gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth. However, to affect real change, we need to begin to nurture entrepreneurship in girls from the school level itself. We must teach them not only the financial and other skills they will need to succeed, but also to see themselves as entrepreneurs and leaders through hands-on experience and interactions.
The technical skills required for most sectors have rapidly become outdated owing to rapid changes in technology and the spread of automation. Young people, including young girls, need the skills to rapidly learn, adapt, practice resiliency and take advantage of entrepreneurial mindsets, to respond to this reality and take control of it. The dynamic environment calls for a transformation in how we think about learning. Hence, the youth of our nation must “learn to learn” in order to develop the abilities required to gain new skills and adapt, which will help them to become resilient, agile and secure work opportunities in the new normal.