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Strategies to Overcome Skill Shortages

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Blog post by Elebthel Gebrehiwot, FIELD-Support intern, FHI 360

According to the World Economic Forum, in Tunisia, 40% of university graduates are unemployed compared to 24% of non-graduates. This suggests that youth graduating from university are lacking “21st century workplace skills,” such as digital literacy, inventive thinking, and effective communication. Many other countries are facing a similar problem. So how do we bridge the gap between unemployed or under employed youth, new job opportunities, and the right skill sets?

During the Advancing the FIELD conference, representatives from the private sector, and workforce development specialists came together to discuss youth skills shortage, youth unemployment, and possible solutions during breakout sessions. A few sessions focused on bridging the critical gap between education and employment or entrepreneurship by focusing on both supply and demand of skills, and systemic changes to how trainers, government, employers, and job seekers get information and make decisions in the labor market. Skills shortages in both the formal and informal sectors constrain both private sector growth and improvements of individual livelihoods. In the session titled Digital Literacy: The New Language of Employment, Allyson Knox from Microsoft, Fiona Macaulay from Making Cents, and Lauren Woodman from NetHope explored means of developing training programs for both job-related and behavioral skills. 

In today’s changing jobs market, it is essential to be adaptable and flexible in a technologically complex, modern workplace. Education, skills training, and experience are contributing factors for employment, however, all these factors have to match current labor market demand. In the session, What’s Beyond Vocational?: The Need to Think Systems and the Need to Collaborate, Monika Aring from FHI 360 highlighted the need for government ministries, the donor community, and the private sector to work together to help youth develop high-quality skills that are in line with the evolving needs of the labor market.   

In another session, Work Readiness: Highlighting Core Competencies and Building Job Search Skills, presenters noted the importance of strengthening intermediary actors, such as job placement and training agencies, and giving job seekers an easily accessible venue to search for employment. They explored how we can develop accelerated training programs for both job-related and behavioral skills, looking at the cost and benefits of these programs for employers.

Programs that build young people’s work experience and skills are stepping stones to increase employment opportunities. Therefore, it is essential that government, private sector and NGOs collaborate and exchange information to help youth acquire relevant, in-demand skills for employment. If you attended any of the sessions, what was your take away? Share some of your thoughts and insights.