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World Youth Skills Day 2022: From Resilience to Fearlessness 

On the eve of World Youth Skills Day 2022, ISC intern Holly Sommers highlights the desire for youth to push past messages of resilience towards a fearlessness which challenges our existing systems.

Declared as World Youth Skills Day in 2014 by the United Nations General Assembly, July 15th provides a unique opportunity to foreground the ‘necessary skills for the employment and entrepreneurship of young people and their strategic importance for the future.’ With global education and training central to Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals, the need for ongoing and diverse discussion between actors such as policy makers, employers, development partners and young people is crucial if we are to reach even some degree of achievement of the 2030 Agenda.  

Lockdown saw young people in education at all levels across the globe spend some of the most social and skill-forming years of their lives stuck at home on Zoom (and other online meeting-based communications software), whilst those leaving education and intending to begin work found their skills development stunted as various forms of training were interrupted for 86 percent of apprentices and 83 percent of interns and trainees.

Young Academies and associations are invited to join the ISC as affiliate members

At a time when scientific advancements happen in a dynamic and fast-changing world, and science is needed more than ever to find solutions to multiple global challenges, the ISC is offering free Affiliate Membership to eligible young scientific groups.

There is no single skill set for Generation Z (constituting those born roughly between the late 1990’s and the early 2010’s) of today, just as there is no single homogenous “youth”. The educational experiences of young people all over the world today remain vastly disparate. Various barriers to entry and obstacles such as political unrest, gendered educational norms, living and financial conditions affect a range of youth, from young women and girls to those with disabilities, indigenous peoples and minority groups. The promotion of a single skill set for the youth of today will not serve them well. As the pandemic catalyzed the changing of the working world and its environment, so too changed the skills necessary for employment, entrepreneurship and most importantly, a sense of work-related satisfaction.

Often characterized by our familiarity with the internet and its constituent parts, Generation Z’s skill set is frequently perceived as based upon their ability to capitalize on and quickly comprehend technology. However, Gen Z is also deeply and passionately concerned with the state of the world, plagued by concerns over finances, ‘eco-anxiety’ and burn- out from often needing to work several jobs at once.

“When we were younger, we wanted to change how we operated within existing systems; now, after witnessing global trauma after trauma, we want to change them completely.”

Deloitte’s latest Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, with data from across 46 countries, emphasizes that the youth of today are striving and struggling to balance their desire to drive change with the difficult realities of everyday life. Whilst technical and vocational education and training (TVET) are central to achieving the 2030 Agenda, ensuring its accessibility and implementation at the local level is crucial. TVET must also satisfy the conditions and visions that much of today’s youth prioritize, notably the incorporation of sustainable economic growth, inclusivity and supporting of a transition to a green economy and environmental sustainability. Yet gaining and utilizing technical skills fills only half of the toolkit needed to satisfy the depth and breadth of the contemporary skill set.  

Resilience has characterized the messages to the global youth over the past few years, from teachers to professors and from parents to bosses. We have had to adapt to new ways of working, had years of our schooling and education disrupted, altered and often lowered in quality (there are plenty of horror stories of language exams by video conference, with disrupted connections, poor sound quality and disrupted internet); on top of this are the huge impacts of these shifts on our mental health, and the impact that years of stunted social interactions have had on our development. Resilience and adaptation are not new skills to us, but we no longer want to continue having to utilize them.  

Instead of simply remaining resilient, the wanted and necessary non-technical skills for today’s youth lie in the ability to move from a passive resilience to an active fearlessness. To have the capacity to question and look beyond existing norms, long-lasting structures and too-big-to-fail systems. We must pair a multidisciplinary range of technical skills and training with an open and ever-questioning fearlessness. Calls to this kind of action are not limited amongst youth today, and they are notably intersectional. Aware that the various crisis we have faced are not stand-alone in nature, young people such as the three founders of Earthrise Studio  (Finn Harries, Alice Aedy and Jack Harries),  which is dedicated to communicating how best to navigate the climate crisis, are consistently vocal on the need to incorporate all voices in their activism (in Earthrise’s case through ‘intersectional environmentalism’). Crucially they are aware of the intersections that the climate crisis shares with other existing structures such as colonialism and capitalism.  

For an informed discussion with tangible means of supporting these kind of thinking skills, I address the reader to a set of webinars held by the International Science Council (ISC) in 2020  and 2021 . These assessed and discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the social sciences and likewise the impact of the social sciences on COVID-19. Of particular note to this article, highlighting the means of attempting to build a new policy paradigm is the webinar on ‘Rethinking economics in the Light of COVID and Future Crises’.  

For the last several years, the global youth has been praised for their ability to adapt to ever-changing situations and remain resilient. But this praise no longer resounds with us. We are tired of standing stoically still whilst various crises, economic, health, political and otherwise batter us from all sides. Today’s youth no longer want to simply grin, bear, and remain resilient, we want to enact and be a part of genuine change. To know that the world we will inherit, where we will work, potentially raise our future children and grow older in, is not riddled with the same inherent flaws and ill-serving systems that we were born into.

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Photo of James Waddell

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Former ISC intern James Waddell presents a light-hearted but optimistic view on the challenges faced by youth in today’s world.

Image by Callum Shaw on Unsplash.

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