Miika Tomi, the voice of youth at the Third International Congress on TVET
“Listen to youth, especially when we talk about education”, is the essence of Miika Tomi’s message to governments. Miika, the Youth Delegate from Finland, co-presented the final report of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum (17-20 October 2011, UNESCO Paris) and again represented the voice of youth at the 3rd UNESCO TVET Congress on , (13-16 May 2012 Shanghai, China).
Q: Youth is idealized in the world of marketing, but in the world of work young people are considered a problem – why these different realities?
A: Youth is often seen as a problem, but if we want to resolve issues such as global youth unemployment, we need to start seeing young people as a solution. All cultures admire youth as energetic, innovative and happy, but the idealistic image does not always translate into reality. In reality, young people protest to show their frustration, having no other means to express themselves. Uneducated youth especially can become a burden to society. Countries that can turn youth into a resource will be the ones to emerge out of this economic situation as the best and the strongest.
Q: Employers have clear requirements; they want a dynamic, flexible, available, hard-working and disciplined young workforce. But what does youth want?
A: Youth clearly wants to work. If you don’t have work you can’t express yourself. But more and more, youth also wants quality jobs. Young people want to develop themselves, to be challenged and learn. Repetitive work without an opportunity for personal growth is less and less tolerated. This puts pressure on employers. The ones who provide professional development will emerge as extremely attractive employers. Google is a good example for attracting sharp young minds because they have a reputation of providing a lot of incentives.
Q: Youth generally prefers higher education while technical jobs have a poor reputation in many countries. How do you see that from a youth perspective?
A: I see this as a big problem. When I talk with young people in vocational education they often have low self-esteem because they are aware of their negative image. Once they have obtained the necessary skills, they are basically forgotten. They are not expected to play a constructive role in society. This stops them from being innovators and creators although they actually have a concrete skill set, which is not usually the case for high school or university students.
Q: How can UNESCO and its youth ambassadors’ network translate the needs and aspirations of youth?
A: UNESCO, in my experience, has emerged as the global advocator of youth. Having the youth forum at the TVET Congress mean that the recommendations have by far the broadest representation of youth aspirations today. At the 2011 General Conference, a recommendation was adopted that said that youth needs to become a global priority for UNESCO. That is what UNESCO is now doing and it can keep showing that youth matters, by listening to them. The same recommendation says that youth should take part in all global conferences. So by showing an example, UNESCO can encourage other organizations to do the same.
Q: You attended the TVET Congress as a youth representative. Do you feel that youth was sufficiently represented at this gathering?
A: To really listen to youth, see them as experts and use their expertise, more youth should be present. I was delighted to see other youth delegates there - the US and Lithuania have very young professionals working for their governments, who they sent to the Congress. In that way they connected the education sector and the youth perspective. I think it is a perfect combination, because young professionals in every country that could contribute. But, we still have a long way to go to make the UNESCO recommendation a reality.