Why are young people not fully prepared for the jobs of the future?

A business executive typing their report on a laptop. [Getty Images]

Only 33 per cent of technology jobs worldwide are filled by the necessary skilled labour. This is one of the biggest concerns of global business leaders. In a global survey conducted by Capgemini and LinkedIn, half of the organisations surveyed say that the digital divide is widening and 54 per cent say they have lost competitive advantage due to talent shortages.

The World Economic Forum estimates that the world will create 150 million new technology jobs over the next five years and by 2030, 77 per cent of jobs will require digital skills.

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed many structural vulnerabilities in society. One of the most obvious was the need to create formal jobs that are resilient and that leverage technology. Here, I set out to understand the situation that prevents young people from accessing the jobs of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and how best to address those barriers.

The Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN) initiative analysed all the data and produced a comprehensive report on these vulnerabilities. This shows that of the post-pandemic youth population of nearly 11,447,212 million young people of working age in Colombia, out of every 100 young people who complete secondary education, 48 immediately access higher education, and of these, only 24 complete it.

These figures mean that, as a society, we are losing more than half of the potential of young people who, if they had access to the required opportunities today, could contribute to the social and economic development of the country.

This same GOYN analysis for the city of Bogota shows that, of the approximately 1,798,362 million young people of working age, 37 per cent are excluded from these opportunities, representing about 671,244 thousand young people who see their welfare and quality of life limited. The percentage of young people with a disability is 72 per cent, of ethnic groups is 47 per cent and LGBTIQ+ is 41 per cent.

Of the total number of youth with potential in the city, 52 per cent are young women. When analysing the participation only of young people who do not study or work, however, this figure increases to 58 per cent, showing that there are gender-based gaps to this problem. Even more serious, is the fact that 76 per cent of young people with potential who are engaged in care work are women.

It is important to understand what the structural barriers are that widen the gap to be able to take action in this regard. These are the structural factors that limit access to opportunities:

A deficit in school competencies

We are not teaching all young people the same. According to the GOYN report, Some young people fail to finish their high school studies with competencies in basic subjects, such as mathematics, and they are also not learning English, and don’t have a significant level of reading comprehension. Additionally, there are no strong references in the environment of many young people who finish school, they need teachers and counsellors to show them what options they have for a good career.

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Access to ICT

The average penetration of connectivity in households in developing countries is still low. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to improve, only 42 per cent have internet connection and about 57 per cent of young people do not have access to training opportunities, formal employment, computers and the internet. Without these tools, it is almost impossible to prepare them for the jobs of the future.

Although the majority of children and adults have access to smartphones, they are often not using them to their advantage. They are very connected to the content they consume on social networks, but they are not translating access to connection into access to valuable information.

Environmental factors

The life trajectories of young people also continue to be impacted by their surroundings and home life. In addition to there being a lack of support, validation and encouraging accompaniment, there is also a lack of role models.

There are efforts to remove some of the obstacles that young people face. Talento Joven, for example, is an accelerator for training and formal labour that is on a mission to strengthen the capabilities of young people and connect them with the job offers of the 4IR. This has already provided more than 10,000 young people in Bogota with a free boot camp and a series of face-to-face workshops on topics such as: how to build a good CV; how to present a good job interview; and, how to save to be financially intelligent.

The power to make decisions about your career after leaving school is conditioned by the level of information, guidance and accompaniment that students receive. The importance of socio-occupational orientation, therefore, is highlighted to provide information related to self-knowledge, training and employment opportunities in the city.