In this video, Jamie McAuliffe, CEO of Education for Employment (EFE) – Global , says we need to move from talk to action to tackle the crisis of youth unemployment. “Young people are frustrated and despondent, and many feel the social contract has been broken,” says McAuliffe. In this World Economic Forum video, he calls on companies and governments to invest in the future and help young people develop meaningful skills required by the marketplace.

Get the full interview above, or read key quotes below.

On investing in the future

Official global figures say that 75 million of them are unemployed, and that’s not even calculating all the young people who have stopped looking for work or are underemployed.

A quarter of a billion young people who are not in school or in work are underemployed – that’s a large portion of the 1.2 billion young people who are under the age of 25. This is something that companies and governments should care about: if we can reduce youth unemployment by 1%t, that may mean up to 72 billion dollars in new revenue. We need to invest in the future, and young people are future consumers and taxpayers.

It’s counterintuitive that as we have a global crisis in youth employment we have jobs that are going unfilled, because businesses say they can’t find the talent they need. There are young people coming out of high school or university with qualifications, but no meaningful skills that businesses want.

On finding solutions

At Education for Employment we’ve shown that it works to switch the process to start on the demand side, with the market. We ask what are the jobs that are needed and what are the sectors of growth? We talk to businesses to understand the skills needs, and then we design programmes to meet those needs. All of our employers say what’s needed most are communication, teamwork and presentation. The emphasis is on non-cognitive, entrepreneurial and creative skills – basic soft skills that will allow a young person to be successful no matter what industry they’re in.

There are things that we can do to create internship and apprenticeship programmes that combine school and work. These are things that are already being done, and now need to be scaled up. Small Medium Enterprises in many markets are the engines of growth: they are the job creators, not the large companies. We need to do more to create the talent pipeline for them, to help them understand what kind of skills will contribute to their job growth. We need to help young people understand that joining a small company can be just as rewarding as joining a larger one.

A lot of the job gaps happen to be in trades that companies can’t find young people because young people have not typically wanted to go into trades or apprenticeship. We must address the expectations gap for both young people and their families, who might sometimes pressure them that they should only a take a certain type of job. We can help young people and families understand that a vocational career path is actually a viable and meaningful one.

On next steps

My first recommendation is that we must start somewhere. Educational institutions can start by building in more practical experiences to their curriculum. And businesses can identify the skills gap and let people know where the skills and where the jobs are going to be over the next several years. You can also involve your volunteers in mentoring, and engage in  practical solutions that don’t take a lot of money or time.

Secondly, we need to move from talk to action. Let’s mobilize our communities and come together and work with schools to bridge the skills gap. We need to build eco-systems of support for young entrepreneurs to create the companies of future. Third, my advice is to have patience. Youth unemployment is a long term problem that is not going away overnight. But if we start mobilizing and building, we’ll begin to see a real change over time.

My last recommendation is talk to young people; get them involved in the process, and let’s hear the success stories of young people who have overcome the odds to get their first job, or start a business and grow it. We need to get young people’s voices out in the world so they can be role models to other young people who are giving up hope. We cannot afford to lose a generation. Let’s renew the social contract, and give young people a better future.

Author: Jamie McAuliffe is CEO of Education for Employment.

Image: Applicants fill out forms during a job fair at the Southeast LA-Crenshaw WorkSource Center in Los Angeles November 20, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni