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Equipping Young People With Workplace Skills

There are many problems facing the world of education today but one that must be urgently addressed is its failure to equip young people with the skills they need to move into the workplace. A recent study has found that nearly one in four IT opportunities worldwide had gone unfulfilled in 2012 because of a lack of candidates with the relevant training or experience.

Add to this that IT is one of the fastest growing industries in the world today and it can be seen that if we are losing 25 percent of its job opportunities, in a global economy where job opportunities are already scarce, we are in big trouble.

And this skills gap is a massive problem not just in IT but in all areas of employment. Today, half of all jobs require some degree of technology skills and, according to Microsoft who shared this research, experts say this will rise to 77 percent in the next decade.

So when the millionth vote was cast for education in the MY World survey, a joint collaboration between the UN, the Overseas Development Institute and NGOs around the world, last month, it was important not to just focus on that single issue. And sure enough, right behind education are significant votes, more than 780,00 in fact, for better access to jobs.

Not only are people overwhelmingly voting for a better education, they are also asking for better opportunities to use that education -- in the workplace. They don't just want a job, they want one that pays well and in which they can work their way up the ladder to better opportunities. A Pew Research Center study two years ago found that less than half (45 percent) of 18 to 34-year-olds in employment say they have the education and training necessary to get ahead in their job or career. Indeed Time Magazine found that the fewest young adults in 60 years have jobs at all.

The issues of employment encompass so many issues of education. Education has multiple root problems -- from basic availability of physical schools, to shortages of trained teachers, to societal attitudes including opposition to the education of women -- but as well as tackling these issues, we need to focus on this skills gap as a matter of urgency. The new 2015 development agenda, into which the MY World survey is designed to feed, must be part of this.

Education goals need to be far broader than just boosting primary school enrollment, as in the current Millennium Development Goals. They need to be tailored to encourage education that is meaningful, enduring and ultimately leads to an opportunity to get a job and get ahead in the workplace.

New ways of learning and technologies, such as eLearning, must be embraced and a stress put on people gaining life long skills, which can help them grow and succeed when they leave school or higher/further education. It is clear that primary school is where an education best begins and where continued attention and efforts should go, but enrollment is a start in learning that must continue throughout life.

Indicators should record not just primary school enrollment, but primary school completion, a move to secondary school, secondary school graduation and ultimately a successful move to the workplace. The goals beyond 2015 must be bold. They must grasp the new opportunities the Internet provides and make sure education is both far-reaching and relevant.

We all know that poverty is a complex beast made up of and influenced by so many different factors. Part of the solution is education, part access to jobs. The two issues go hand in hand.

People want to help themselves, not be helped by others. Our development approach must be reassessed. People want better education, healthcare and job opportunities so they can improve their own lives. It is time to recognize that part of the solution is to close this ever-widening skills gap.

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Corinne Woods, Director, United Nations Millennium Campaign