The World Youth Skills Day 2020 took place in a challenging context due to Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown measures throughout the world are threatening the continuity of skills development of youth in most countries including Bangladesh. It is jointly estimated by UNESCO and ILO that nearly 70% of the world’s learners are affected by school closures across educational levels. Prior to the current crisis, young people aged 15-24 were three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. Covid-19 will be transforming the skill sector and keeping this in mind all the development sectors are adapting to mitigate this challenge and transformation.
We hosted a Facebook LIVE session on 16 July 2020 titled ‘How skills can transform the lives of youth during and post-Covid-19 era?’ - to discuss the essential skills for youth in the Covid-19 times. Minhaz Anwar, the Chief StoryTeller at BetterStories Limited, Mashfique Ibne Akbar, Private Sector Development Adviser at the Department for International Development (DFID) Bangladesh and Syeda Tahsina Hridita, Master Facilitator of Active Citizens Youth Leadership Training Programme and joined the discussion. Md. Abdur Rahaman Khan hosted the LIVE from the British Council’s side.
In this discussion, participants tried to portray the changes and radical shifts taking place in the employment market during Covid-19 times. All speakers agreed that considering this shift, a set of new skills are required for youth to be resilient in the times following the pandemic. Analysing the current trends of business and employment, it is apparent that digital and online communication skills would be most important. To ensure physical distancing, many organisations have already shifted their activities from face-to-face to online platforms, which necessitated this change in their way of delivering work. Bearing this in mind, the participants shared their ideas on how to manage and cope with the change.
Minhaz Anwar offered suggestions based upon his extensive experience of the fast-growing start-up sector of Bangladesh. This sector has already created around 1.5 million jobs and would have created more employment opportunities in the next 10 years. However, this sector has been badly affected due to the pandemic and many of these start-ups have now closed down, with a consequent drastic drop in revenue. So, this is going to be a challenge for the youth to identify and acquire the most required competencies and essential skills for jobs. He suggested that to adapt to this trend, youth need to be more open, flexible, curious, persistent, and up to date to about the latest trends as the competition is now global. Several types of free courses on the most essential skills are offered online by renowned institutions and these can be the primary source for learning and development for coping with the transformation in employability. He also talked about exploring new job opportunities that are offered from global platforms and identifying and learning skills that are in high global demand.
Mashfique Ibne Akbar spoke about the pioneer youth and skills development programmes of DFID. He highlighted the Skills and Employment Programme (Sudokkho) which is implemented by Palladium International, in consortium with Swisscontact and British Council. Sudokkho is a market system development programme for skills development in RMG and construction sectors. DFID also worked with BRAC for skills development, job placement, and entrepreneurship training with the disadvantaged community. He described a unique apprentice training programme which offers six-month skills development training and creation of a platform to enable them to individually set up something. He also mentioned the UCEP programme which is working for technical and vocational education, job placement and advocacy on decent work. He commented on the emerging new trends that are observed in the development sector like increasing demand for community paramedics, health technicians, IT skills or multiple skills. DFID is working closely with the government to address this changing trend with the right programmatic intervention.
Syeda Tahsina Hridita shared her story and views on the most essential skills relevant for youth in light of this Pandemic. She highlighted some of her learnings, such as being confident to face online interviews and using distance monitoring tools like ‘Ona’ and ‘Kobo’. She said that the experience of Active Citizens journey helped to enhance her communication and negotiation skills from managing different stakeholders while implementing her Social Action Project in the community. She has also acquired report writing skills by training evaluation reporting as a Master Facilitator for the Active Citizens programme.
Mr Rahaman spoke about the British Council programmes. In addition to the Active Citizens programme, the British Council offers an English and digital skill development programme for girls from marginalised communities, and also runs the Pathways to Empower Young Women in Bangladesh programme. In addition, it identifies the challenges faced by women and girls and highlights champions and mentors through its Women of the World programme.
All participants also shared a final message for the youth. Minhaz stressed the need to acquire multiple skills and to be competent in both Bangla and English languages and learning effective communication skills. Mashfique advised the youth to utilise their endless access to different sectors and acquire multi-skills. He suggested that considering the scarcity of jobs, youth should identify the sets of skills employers will be looking for and acquire the right skills accordingly. Hridita added that if we focus on one sector and start acquiring the set of skills necessary then we can easily adapt in the current Pandemic situation. She highlighted the importance of keeping hope alive, resilience and lastly mental health which need to be taken care of especially during these times.
If you interested to watch the full LIVE programme please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_EpJCIvHCQ