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How to improve adolescents' skills for the future

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This International Youth Day we’re exploring how to improve the resilience of adolescents in Indonesia

Almost 20% of Indonesia’s population are adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years. With the current population growth, the country is predicted to experience a demographic bonus in the decade between 2030 and 2040 – meaning the number of people in the productive age group between 15 and 64 years will be greater than the number of people under or above that.

Such a rise in the number of people in the productive age group usually results in more people looking for work, thus leading to an increase in the labour supply. At the same time, this implies a higher savings rate, an increased earning capacity, and the entry of more women into the workforce. All these factors could fuel significant economic growth, however, there is also a risk that, if most young people within the youth bulge have low skills levels and are unable to find meaningful employment, they could become a burden on society.

Ensuring youth population is adequately prepared to face future challenges has been dominating policy debates in recent years, however, the best way of supporting this transition is still unclear.

The complexity of the present and future world means that people must be equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate unexpected challenges that build their resilience to change – meaning that they have the capability of adapting and persisting through changing circumstances.

Some of the challenges faced by youth in Indonesia include skills mismatch, limited awareness of job opportunities, and limited training on how to acquire jobs. This typically occurs due to skills and labour shortages, gaps between the skills people have and the jobs that are available, over or under-education for specific job roles, and skills obsolescence or deteriorated skills.

Our recent work in Indonesia spotlighted the importance transferrable skills play for scaling up resilience of citizens. These skills are cross-cutting, and can be applied in an individual’s personal, social, and professional life. In addition to the foundational (literacy, numeracy), job-specific, and digital skills, adolescents need to hone their transferable skills and put these in the right context for the future.

Some of the most important transferrable skills include:

  • Learning and self-empowerment: The labour world is changing rapidly, and adolescents need to be equipped with the skill to unlearn and relearn at every stage in their lives. Lifelong learning characterises the workplaces of the future, and the ability to remain flexible, adaptive, and up-to-date with workplace requirements is a key skill for adolescents.

  • Social skills and active citizenship: Living and working in the digital world has changed the nature of social relations for adolescents. The importance of getting along with others is an important skill for everyone – both in person and through digital channels. Respecting diversity and tolerance are key complementary skill to ensure positive participations of adolescents within their role as a citizen in the country.

  • Environment and natural resources: Understanding the non-renewable nature of environment, limited natural resources, and global challenges such as climate change, will help adolescents in leading a high quality life and also contribute to the wider discussions and solvency of these challenges.

These three elements are interconnected, and focus should be given to all in equal measure. Resilient citizens will have a good grasp of all, not just of skills related to employability. Schools, as a formal education channel, still remain the best placed for adolescents to acquire these skills. The informal channels, especially family and peer networks, have proven to be vital for picking up new skills. In addition, parents need to be empowered to understand and provide effective support for adolescent to gain these skills for the future.

Further efforts should focus on the out-of-school children to ensure the inclusivity of mastering these skills for the future. Among others, one of the ways is to introduce career counselling and mentoring support for skills development and entrepreneurship. The aim of this intervention will be to reduce the information gap about future challenges, opportunities, and risks for the out-of-school children. Counselling and mentorship opportunities will not only help adolescents achieve their personal and professional aspirations, but will also provide a channel for vulnerable adolescents who have been victims of peer pressure, bullying, or drug abuse to seek support and find ways to realise their potential.

Image: GeorginaCaptures / Shutterstock.com