A young man is using 3D to print prosthesis for children in Argentina. On the other side of the world, Mihir, aged 17, invented a low-cost, intelligent drone for finding people who are trapped after disasters. And there’s Shubham who started Braigo Labs, offering low-cost Braille printers to help the visually impaired. What do these three people have in common? All of them were under 30 years old when they embarked on the adventure of solving challenges and improving the lives of millions. It just takes a few Google searches to find that the list is far longer than that.
Young people are usually seen as ‘adults in the making’, but do not let the bad press of teenage years deceive you. Neuroscience and developmental psychology show that by the age of 15 people have reached most of the intellectual markers of adulthood. Moreover, the period of puberty to 25 years has been identified as one of heightened neuroplasticity – a feature that is connected with great potential for learning, more risk-taking and status quo-challenging attitudes. With the right environment and support, this breeding ground for creativity can become the guaranteed source for humanity to solve our biggest challenges.
As for challenges, the beginning of the 21st century brought rapid transformations in one realm that affects many others: the world of work. By 2030, as many as 375 million people worldwide will need to switch occupations and upgrade their skills. This number is especially alarming given that young people’s unemployment rates are usually worse that the general workforce in almost every G20 country. This means that the risks of job loss are embedded in a context of a very fragile job situation for young people.
Opportunity for development
What can be done to reduce the risk of unemployment while transforming this historic moment into a chance for development? And, if continuous training is needed, what are the skills that can better prepare future workers for a world of uncertainty? How can we train them? Fortunately, there is plenty of research and evidence on the skills that will be most important in the 21st century. The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2018 highlights proficiency in new technology, creativity, critical thinking, persuasion, negotiation, emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence as some of the skills increasing in demand.
Certainly, our education systems around the world are ready for this, right? Well, even though countries worldwide have made enormous progress in extending schooling, millions of students lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, let alone foundational cognitive, socio-emotional and higher-order thinking skills. The reasons behind this phenomenon are usually complex, including factors such as deprivation and out-of-date teacher training, as well as the difficulties in measuring meaningful skills development.
In a world that changes so fast, effective solutions must make the most of available resources: a broad schooling system, serious research by organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Economic Forum on what skills will be needed, and the capacity of youth to question the status quo.
Prior to assuming the presidency of Argentina’s Y20, at Eidos we were working on this particular challenge to design meaningful learning experiences for students and employees to develop the skills they need for the future of work, now. When the opportunity arose to gather young people’s visions and recommendations for the future, we did not doubt the potential: what if the Y20 2018 could showcase the challenges that matter to young people, and the solutions they are developing while building capacity (and developing crucial skills) among the delegates?
As a result, the Y20 summit gathered young social innovators and official delegates in Córdoba in August, inviting them to participate side by side in the Social Innovation Warehouse, a digital platform to upload youth projects that have been implemented and tested and can be scaled and replicated by governments and civil society worldwide. Through the process, they put into action their empathy, creativity, critical thinking and communication skills. And by the end of it, they were able to show the G20 leaders not only that this generation can create relevant policy recommendations, but also that young people are already implementing solutions to transform reality all over the world.