Innovative solution to a complex development challenge of youth unemployment

By: Patience Coleman Beyan, Development Policy professional

Executive Summary

High unemployment rate affecting youths have since been a complex development challenge for the world to address. Poverty, lack of adequate education, food insecurity, housing, high illiteracy, and health risks are among the competing priorities in addition to unemployment problems, needing urgent attention from development practitioners both locally and internationally. So far, most developing countries facing these problems have over the years turned to private sector development mechanisms to help create jobs through Foreign Direct Investments and Entrepreneurship. Depending on the suitable business climate, more investments will mean more job generation and plenty of economic activities. At the same time, most developing nations look to education as a sustainable means of addressing this unemployment crisis. Accordingly, if poor people have access to schooling, they can work and advance themselves. According to the World Bank report on the impact of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) implementation on education, progress in the global effort to enable all the world’s children to receive quality education has made impressive gains since 2000 (https://www.globalpartnership.org/blog/final-assessment-mdg-impact-education).

However, for enormous number of children, the report cautions getting quality education remains far out of reach. This intractable situation continues to stand as today’s hurdle as seen from the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlook. Despite these hurdles, many developing nations and especially Africa—the largest developing continent in the world—has shown must promise for progress. Africa remains the fasted growing region in the world economically and demographically. Because it has the world’s youngest population, there is huge expectation for education and growth. This paper therefore builds on innovative ideas previously written and the presentation of actions for addressing these hurdles in the 21st century. It will argue that, developing nations need to prioritize highly skilled human capital initiatives in order to create, sustain growth and push forward with development. Hence, there must be a continued expansion of the educational sector. If education is perceived as valuable as a result of the opportunity it brings for all those who pursue it, younger population in developing countries are most likely to follow and to cultivate a results oriented lifestyle. Sustainable development cannot be achieved by merely producing large numbers of graduates however, it must ensure that they are employable and productively employed. This will require a new strategy, approach and multi-actors contributions.

Problem Description

This paper is not the first in it kind to be written by me. Upon my graduation from college with a BSc in Economics, the first complex problem I tried to address in my thesis was graduate unemployment. In my most recent publication written as part of the Liberia Development Conference USAID 2017 anthology(http://usaidliberiakmportal.com/resource_library/liberia-development-conference-anthology/), I interrogated the issue by studying the situation of Liberia—a case study suitable for describing this problem and contextualizing this paper.

Liberia like many African countries has a youthful population. Youth make up one-third of the Liberian population of approximately 3.5 million, a population hit hard by the ongoing unemployment crisis. As part of my analytical work and research, the reasons for unemployment and underemployment are many. The quality of education and vocational skills training do not seem to equip young people with the appropriate competencies or high enough skill level to be attractive to employers. According to the ILO, “in most Sub-Saharan African countries, about two-thirds of all young workers in the labor market—95 million people—lack the basic skills needed to be competitive in the labor force.” Young people tend to have limited experience and professional networks. Most countries even lack differences in higher education that does not produce employable graduates and a diversified workforce in response to Africa Development Priorities. In many developing countries where the value of education have not been clearly realized, quantity have been sacrificed over quality in order to at least increase enrolment rate. Hence the need to create alternative ways of skills development and a continuous culture of learning.

Away from the educated workforce is a turning point that highlights the situation of informal sector employment. The problem is however not just with the inability of young people to be well educated to find jobs, or the inaccessibility of job opportunities in the formal sector; there are many youths who are unemployed, uneducated, and informally employed. Should we push small businesses to formalize in order to benefit from the economy or should they modernize as an informal business? Whatever the case, there is general agreement over the need to pay attention to the informal sector because of its importance to employment and poverty reduction. Others believe that there should be a strategic approach to seek ways and means to incorporate the informal sector into the process of modernization.

Where are the solutions?

Following these deliberations, it is clear that addressing this problem will require multiple actors and strategies–the government, Civil Society, the private sector, individuals and the international community. Besides the need for governments to improve education institutions, develop a business climate for investment, community organizations can also invest in a new form of reskilling program practical enough to help transition young people to the world of work in a meaningful way as an immediate sustainable employment plan. With this, they can navigate both former and informer world of work.

Firstly, all college graduates must have the opportunity for accessing employment prospects through the institution of a Compulsory National Youth Service Program that help them transition to the world of work adequately and equip graduates from both Universities and vocational programs with key organizing, problem solving skills to become employable and thrive in a competitive world. Secondly, from a Non-Governmental and community solutions dimension, organizations can start tailoring their approaches to transitional initiatives targeted to address this issue by adopting similar model used by the Liberia Career Advancement Network, an innovation by Liberian professionals—http://careerdevelopmentambassadors.com
The LICAN Model:
While there are millions of problems to be addressed, the Liberia Career Advancement Network Program Module argues for the need to adequately address the persistent unemployment problem from a human capital perspective. The world is changing and it is having an impact on everything, including the future of work. A significant evolution of the labour market is forecast over the next 10 years, and we do not yet fully know all the jobs of the future. However, given the hyper-transformation of technology, business models and work, it is important to understand and anticipate what this means for youth, society, businesses and government, so that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the digital economy. Now more than ever, we need to invest in a new paradigm in the way we acquire the skills needed for jobs – a model that allows for perpetual, renewable skills development. Imagine a future where educational institutions, employers and individuals work together in an entirely new way. They collaborate fully to provide the foundation for perpetual learning so that everyone can participate (World Economic Forum ‘The Future of Jobs Report 2018’).
LICAN considers these projections and intends to create a platform for change and to inspire global actions. LICAN model will help to optimize students’ transition from university to employment, further their understanding of the world of work, and/or career pursuits. This means not only an increased ability to obtain work, but also increasing the likelihood that students/graduates will be employed in a field where their particular competencies and skills are a good match to their chosen path and the adaptability to find and create future work suited to their competencies and society’s needs. This program will also increase student’s appetite for employability initiatives thereby building a continuous professional development learning culture. As participants work their way through LICAN, they will have the opportunity to earn Career readiness certificate and increase their motivation! Overall, this initiative should work to develop beneficiaries into more adaptable professionals with both technical expertise and broad skills that are attractive to employers, as well as have the capability to become self-aware, confident and take charge of their career advancement. Membership to LICAN is by partnership and subscription except for mentors and volunteers in order to sustain the program. It applies a social enterprise model of creating entrepreneurial products and using proceed for the running of the program. It also applies a partnership framework that supports joint projects that increase the impact of the program. Hence, individuals and non-state actors are key in helping to advance these ideas. This program is part of a bigger initiative in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), strongly considering SDG 8 on decent work & economic growth and SDG 17 partnership for development and collaboration as a tool for success.
In conclusion, there remains so much to be done in addressing the complex unemployment challenges faced by youths both in the formal and informal sectors. As part of this plan stands the new way of addressing human capacity challenges and preparation for the world of work since creating and obtaining jobs will depend on the knowledge and available resources and networks that are available to them.