• Nearly a billion young people are still missing out on education because of COVID-19.
  • And the pandemic has interrupted training for more than 80% of apprentices and trainees.
  • By 2030, the youth population will grow by 78 million – education and training must keep up, says the UN.
  • Solutions to the education gap include World Bank projects in Africa to deliver learning by mobile phone.
  • While the UN’s World Youth Skills Day 2021 will stress the importance of skilling young people for the jobs of the future.

Nearly a billion young people are still missing out on education because of COVID-19 school closures, according to United Nations figures.

More than 80% of apprentices and trainees have also had their training interrupted as firms slowed or stopped skills development activity.

“Looking beyond the COVID-19 crisis and recovery is essential,” the UN says in its campaign message for World Youth Skills Day 2021 on 15 July.

Out of school

“COVID-19 is the worst crisis to education and learning in a century,” according to the World Bank, which supports developing countries.

Its map of school closures found 1.6 billion children were out of school worldwide at the peak of school closures in April 2020. Even before the pandemic, 258 million children of primary and secondary-school age were out of school.

Low- and middle-income countries – where lack of electricity or internet access can make homeschooling difficult – are most at risk. Before the pandemic, almost 90% of 10-year-olds in sub-Saharan Africa could not read and understand a simple text, the World Bank says.

The UN points out that low-income countries will account for nearly half of a predicted 78 million increase in the world’s youth population by 2030.

“Education and training systems need to respond to this challenge,” it says.

a chart showing the extent of the disruption to young people/s education
The majority of respondents found their studies had been disrupted.
Image: Youth & COVID-19: Impacts on Jobs, Education, Rights and Mental Well-being,

What is the World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit?

The World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit brings together leaders from business, government, civil society, media and the broader public to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.

The two-day virtual event, being held on 1-2 June 2021, will address the most critical areas of debate, articulate pathways for action, and mobilize the most influential leaders and organizations to work together to accelerate progress.

The Summit will develop new frameworks, shape innovative solutions and accelerate action on four thematic pillars: Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation; Work, Wages and Job Creation; Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning; and Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.

The jobs of the future

While COVID-19 has devastated education and skills development, it has also seen businesses accelerate technology adoption and automation.

By 2025, employers will divide work equally between humans and machines, the World Economic Forum predicts in its Future of Jobs 2020 report. It also expects that half of workers who remain in their roles will need to be reskilled.

Forum Managing Director Saadia Zahidi said that in the future, the most competitive businesses would be “the ones that have invested heavily in their human capital – [in] the skills and competencies of their employees”.

The report calls on businesses and governments to collaborate to improve access to reskilling and upskilling.

Education’s COVID recovery

Technical and vocational skills are key topics at this year’s World Youth Skills Day on 15 July, which marks the importance of equipping young people with skills for “employment, decent work and entrepreneurship".

The event will also explore how training has adapted to the crisis, and how it should develop after COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the World Bank is supporting a range of initiatives to help with education’s COVID recovery. One project in Nigeria - Edo-BEST@Home - delivers remote learning to young people through their mobile phones.