What you need to know about skills for work and life

Last update: July 5, 2022

What are skills for work and life?

Skills for work and life refer to a range of learning experiences relevant to the world of work and beyond, including the study of technologies and related sciences, and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge that help individuals live healthy and fulfilling lives. These learning experiences are both lifewide, i.e. they may occur in a variety of places including educational institutions and workplaces; and lifelong. UNESCO works to ensure TVET evolves in pace with technology and the workplace and that learners are equipped with relevant skills to meet individual, labour market and societal demands.  

Why does UNESCO consider this theme important?

Worldwide around 267 million young people between the ages of 15-24 are not in employment, education or training. UNESCO believes that skills for work and life are more than just educational interventions to make people more productive in economic activities and include knowledge, insights and mindsets generally valuable for learners. As seen in the Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all (2015) UNESCO promotes access to affordable, quality TVET for all that eliminates gender disparity and includes the most vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic served to further highlight the critical role of empowering learners with relevant skills, particularly the most vulnerable such as migrants or refugees.  

How does UNESCO work to promote skills for work and life?

UNESCO’s work is framed by the UNESCO Strategy for TVET 2022 – 2029: Transforming Technical and Vocational Education and Training for Successful and Just Transitions and the  2015 Recommendation concerning Technical and Vocational Education and Training. The Organization supports countries in addressing challenges such as growing youth unemployment by improving the quality of TVET and skills development programmes. It has three clear priorities: skills for individuals to learn, work and live, skills for economies to transition towards sustainable development and skills for inclusive and resilient societies. It promotes equity and gender equality through policy dialogue and TVET programmes with a focus on disadvantaged groups and how digital technologies can assist them and incorporates green skills in TVET activities and programmes. UNESCO also works with a range of other organizations through the Inter-agency cooperation group on TVET and the UNEVOC Network. The UNEVOC Network is UNESCO’s global network for institutions specialized in skills for work and life and is the key driver for mutual learning, capacity-building and advancing international cooperation in TVET. 

How has UNESCO’s approach changed since the COVID-19 pandemic?

Young people often lack the skills needed to find decent and meaningful employment, with unemployment rates globally being disproportionately high for them. These inequalities have been exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted learning for many low-skilled youth and adults, as well as affecting their mental, social and financial well-being. UNESCO views the crisis as an opportunity to change course and take action. The Strategy for TVET 2022–2029 has been developed with recovery, resilience-building and reimagining of education and training to the forefront.  

How is UNESCO addressing the transition to inclusive and sustainable societies?

The development of skills that meet a changing labour market across a lifetime is crucial for inclusive and sustainable growth, productivity and innovation. Digital transformation and greening are driving deep changes and economies can only benefit if learners develop the right skills and competencies. Pre-pandemic, high youth unemployment and skills mismatch affected economies worldwide. COVID-19 further affected economies and saw millions lose their jobs or part of their income. In addition, emerging job markets mean many will need to upskill or change sectors. UNESCO supports countries in identifying skills required to serve digital and green economies, address unemployment, and reduce the gender skills gap.  

How does UNESCO support gender equality in skills for work and life?

UNESCO supports countries in mainstreaming gender equality when reviewing and developing TVET policies, strategies and programmes. This work is guided by From access to empowerment: UNESCO Strategy for gender equality in and through education 2019-2025 and the Her education, our future initiative.