19.07.2018 - New York Office

21 century skills for young people


New York: On 17 July 2018, UNESCO co-organized a high-level event on “Youth Skills for Sustainability and Innovation” to mark the Word Skills Day during the High Level Political Forum.

The celebration of the World Youth Skills Day, traditionally organized by the Permanent Missions of Portugal and Sri Lanka, together with UNESCO, ILO and the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, brought together high-ranking officials, policy-makers, representatives of diplomatic community, UN entities, youth organizations and civil society. Representatives of business, tech-companies, labour organizations, experts in emerging technologies, including UCLA, HP Inc., U.S. Council for International Business, Black in AI, brought a new perspective to the discussion.

This year, the observance of the Day under the theme “Youth Skills for Sustainability and Innovation” explored how to equip young people with quality, relevant, 21st century skills that prepare them for the future and to enable them to address the major challenges and opportunities of our times, such as the rapid digitalization and climate change.

In his opening remarks, the President of the UN General Assembly H.E. Miroslav Lajcak urged the international community to invest in skills and education that equips youth not only with basic literacy skills but also with critical thinking, entrepreneurship skills and adaptability. Recalling the recently held Youth Dialogue, he outlined the importance of including young people in the decision-making and policy-implementation processes around the world and at all levels.

"Young people need to take on a leading role in the global effort to create a sustainable world. It is crucial that we seize young people’s potential” - said the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake. She outlined that quality education is key to succeed in the job market, and urged to ensure that young people are equipped with skills and knowledge to respond to technological innovations.

Marie Paule Roudil, UNESCO Representative to the United Nations and Director of UNESCO office in New York, stressed that the emerging technologies hold a great promise to support economic growth and sustainable development as they have the potential to improve peoples’ lives, but at the same time present certain challenges related to privacy, security, consumer protection. To thrive in the digital economy, digital skills should go together with social-emotional skills, such as creative skills, learning techniques, entrepreneurial and transferable skills, - Ms Roudil said.

Discussing the future of work, Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General emphasized that new technologies come with great hopes and opportunities, which can only be pursued only by working together to tackle the growing skills gap. He further stressed the importance of a dynamic lifelong learning and skills acquisition to respond to the changing trends of the job market.

H.E. Mr. Mustafa Kamal (Minister of Planning, Bangladesh), Hon. Mr. Karunarathna Paranawithana (Deputy Minister of Science, Technology, Research, Skills Development and Vocational Training and Kandyan Heritage, Sri Lanka), H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera (Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN), H.E. Mr. Francisco António Duarte Lopes (Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Portugal to the UN) joined the discussion, sharing national experience and best practices in implementing policies and leverage innovation for youth skills development.

Policy-makers, tech experts, representative of private sector and youth activists exchanged views and success stories on how to leverage innovation and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning to boost youth employment and skills acquisition. All agreed on the need for development of adaptive skills, including soft skills for problem solving and the entrepreneurship. Many underscored the need to ensure holistic and inclusive approach in applying new tools and technological advances.

Since 2015, World Youth Skills Day is celebrated annually, providing an opportunity for representatives of Member States, the United Nations system, the private sector, civil society and youth organizations to share lessons learned and best practices on strategies to address and meet current and future skills needs. This year, as a part of the global campaign, World Youth Skills Day was observed globally by the majority of UNESCO-UNEVOC Centers organizing celebrations in 150 countries.


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