Preparing young people to succeed in tomorrow's economy
July 14, 2023
In daily discourse, we often make a distinction between the life stages of school and work. This World Youth Skills Day, I’m reminded that even though it can feel very different being a student and a member of the working world - what is often forgotten is that learning remains essential, no matter what age you are.
Training our young people to succeed in today’s economy is important, and quality education is key to this. Yet equally important is upskilling and reskilling young people for tomorrow’s economy. McKinsey & Company estimates that between 400 to 800 million people could be displaced by automation come 2030. This is not only confined to mid-career workers - PwC has found that between 20 percent to 40 percent of jobs held by those aged 16 to 24 are at risk of displacement by the mid-2030s. We need to skill, upskill, and reskill young people to allow them to find and stay in meaningful jobs.
Helping young people to make the transition from school to work is why my co-founders and I started Advisory Singapore. We’re a fully youth-led charity dedicated to helping young people from all walks of life to make informed career and further education choices. At heart, our fundamental belief is that every young person, no matter their socio-economic circumstance, family background, or schooling history, deserves support to pursue their aspirations, find decent work, and have a fair shot at life.
First, we believe that ensuring our educators have the best industry knowledge is vital to enable them to prepare students for work. The Advisory Educators Roundtable, which we co-host with the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Future-ready Graduates, is a platform and support structure for teachers and career guidance counsellors. At our meetings, with the support of Deloitte, we’ve brought in experts to brief educators on emerging industry issues in areas such as the green economy and the implications of artificial intelligence. Educators are on the frontlines, supporting students to acquire fundamental skills as they prepare to join the workforce - we must give them every resource we can to undertake this important work.
Second, we believe that mentorship is crucial to upskilling. There are many things that are challenging to teach in formal education - including soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, and people management. Compounding this problem is that most young people would never have the opportunity to meet the people they aspire to be like and acquire such skills from them that are crucial to their professions. Through the Advisory Mentorship Programme, we’ve been able to deliver over 12,000 hours of one-to-one mentorship for young people since 2020 with the support of over 30 partner organizations, and we have seen how mentors can impart valuable skills and bring a transformational change to a young person’s career trajectory.
Thirdly, we believe that giving companies the space to engage with and train students to be ready to undertake today’s and tomorrow’s work is important to reskilling. We ran our inaugural Pathways, skills development courses led by industry professionals, with Meta in 2021. Through courses on topics like business strategy, computational thinking, and digital marketing strategy that were taught by Meta staff - we provided the opportunity for young people to gain foundational industry knowledge from the people who are on the cutting edge.
I hold the conviction that governments, businesses, and civil society have a shared responsibility to help skill, upskill, and reskill our youth, so that they can succeed in tomorrow’s economy. What is equally important though, is for young people to also embrace continuous and lifelong learning, at every chapter and phase of life.
Through the Advisory Mentorship Programme I had the privilege of meeting several young people who exemplify continuous, lifelong learning. One is Irdina Duran who joined the Advisory Mentorship Programme in 2021, while studying for a Diploma in Mass Communications at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore. She was paired with mentor Anirudh Sharma, Director of Communications and Strategic Relations at Duke-NUS Medical School. Through their conversations, she explored various facets of taking up a job in communications and had the chance to be introduced by Anirudh to a senior correspondent at a newspaper, to learn more about journalism as a potential career. “One of the key soft skills I learnt from Mr Sharma is the importance of building relationships with and learning from others,” Irdina told me. “It gave me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and meet new people.” I’m glad that Irdina will be returning to school to pursue a degree in Global Studies at the National University of Singapore, upskilling herself in a field she’s new to, as she aspires to one day become a policymaker.
Working hand-in-hand with educators and companies as well as young people with the desire to learn like Irdina, I believe we can support even more youth to prepare to succeed in tomorrow’s economy.