In 2014, the United Nations declared 15 July to be the international, World Youth Skills Day. While there is no internationally agreed-upon definition of the youth age group, the United Nations identifies the youth cohort as ages 15 to 24. Our world today is driven by these youth, accounting for 1.2 billion people worldwide.

Today’s youth population faces unique social and economic challenges. Forty percent of the total unemployed population worldwide are youth. Without proper mentorship and guidance, youth may experience a more challenging transition into a suitable workplace which properly utilises their skills and education in their fields of study. Employment and career opportunities are continuing to change due to economic factors, resulting in evolving, technologically progressive education systems and work environments. This could leave youth at a crossroads, with diminishing tangible skill sets under their belts, and preeminent disproportionality in their socio-economic status.

World Youth Skills Day aims to generate awareness about these challenges, in the hopes of initiating discussions on the fundamentally existential and urgent requirement of vocational education, in tandem with the development of crucial marketable skills.

Organisations such as WorldSkills have the sole purpose of recognising abilities in young people, empowering communities, and demonstrating the significance of a varied palette of skills to furthering economic prosperity.

The importance given to education and the acquisition of 21st-century skills within our Ismaili community is profound. A vast number of schools and educational institutions have been founded by His Highness the Aga Khan in urban and rural areas, in concert with programmes and honorary set-ups such as the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). These institutions and programmes aim to provide quality vocational training, employment opportunities, skills development sessions and other socio-economic activities to help youth and adults alike worldwide.

At a regional level, programmes such as the Ismaili Youth Model United Nations (IYMUN), Hackathon, Lego Robotics and weekly Career Counselling have helped the youth of our community grow and refine their skill sets.

Within the region, the Aga Khan Education Board (AKEB) has launched its first-ever Open Innovation Challenge, entitled IDE8. Youth will be taken through the process of exploring the adversities presented by the current state of our world. Not only will they adopt the perspective of seeing these challenges as opportunities, but they will also gain skills to design novel solutions for the progress of their communities. Furthermore, they will learn how to navigate themselves through future challenges as individuals. “These skills, which are grounded in the ethics of Islam, will help them remain resilient in volatile times and move forward with confidence in their purpose.” Explained Hussein Lalani, Chairman of the AKEB, UAE.

Let us step forward in hope and begin to take full advantage of the programmes being offered to us within our community as well as beyond. Every success begins with a creative, open and positive mindset. By leveraging the resources and expertise around us, our youth can work to design their future and will play a pivotal role in improving the quality of life, not only of the community but the societies in which we live.

To participate in the IDE8 register here.

To participate in the World Youth Skills Day Virtual Event on 15 July 2020, register here.