I grew up in a family where my parents had been born into dire socioeconomic and political circumstances. My mother grew up in rural Transkei, South Africa during Apartheid and my father’s university years were disrupted by war in Uganda. However, both of them were able to overcome these circumstances through hard work, determination, education and some luck. Through them, I learned the value of education and its ability to completely change the trajectory of someone’s life.
After university, my work focused on managing a research project investigating how the ability and resources to highlight one’s skills affect an individual’s job search process. We conducted surveys with hundreds of young unemployed job seekers to gain insight into the challenges they face in the job search process. During the survey, skills as well as the ability to highlight one’s skills took special focus. We found that often, it is not the case that young people do not have skills, but rather they do not see their skills as something that can be leveraged in the labour market and that they are unable to demonstrate their skills in a credible way during the job application process.
This realization is significant and raises two important points. Firstly, skills development can cover a wide array of skills. Many young people might not consider all of their abilities and skills useful, however, it is crucial for them to understand that their usefulness would depend on the job requirements and the work environment (as some skills come into use even though they are not explicitly asked for in the application). This means that while skills development (to teach new skills) is important, it is equally important to know how to use those skills in different situations. Secondly, being able to credibly highlight one’s skills is almost as significant as having the skills in the first place. The reason for this is that young people would to be able to convince an employer of their skills during the job application process and, therefore, their confidence in themselves and their abilities is key.
Yet, what about young people who are still unable or unwilling to join the labour market as paid employees? How do these people use their skills to earn an income? In studies conducted by the United Nations and the World Bank, among others, youth entrepreneurship has been identified as a youth employment tool with great potential.
But what work is actually being done on the ground by governments and other organizations? How is the idea of youth entrepreneurship, actually being lived and experienced by young people across the world?
Together with the Building Bridges Foundation, I have set out to answer these and many more questions around youth entrepreneurship and achieving SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth in the Road to Nairobi 2016. On a journey from Johannesburg, South Africa to Kigali, Rwanda and finally to Nairobi, Kenya, we will work with youth ambassadors to identify and support youth entrepreneurs. In doing this, the idea is not to have another round of talks without action, but rather to uncover the real challenges and constraints that hamper youth entrepreneurship. In each country, the youth ambassador will work on tailoring the events to local needs and in a number of countries youth skills come up as a key priority.
After the events, I will continue to work with the youth entrepreneurs, promoting skills development through mentorship, training and increasing their access to networks and financing.
We hope that the Road to Nairobi will be an opportunity to help young entrepreneurs improve their entrepreneurship and business skills; and that we can empower them to be change-makers and to assist in skills development in their own communities and beyond.
About the Author:
Samantha Ndiwalana, aged 24, is a Project Manager on the Building Bridges Road to Nairobi 2016 project. She studied Business Science in Economics and Statistics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and is an Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellow. Samantha has worked for the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and Stop Hunger Now South Africa.
UNDESA: Launch of the World Youth Report on Youth Civic Engagement (15 July 2016)
The World Youth Report on Youth Civic Engagement was launched on 15 July 2016 at United Nations Headquarters, New York. The report, prepared by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, explores young people's participation in economic, political and community life, responding to growing interest in, and an increased policy focus on, youth civic engagement in recent years among Governments, young people and researchers. It provides thematic insights on economic, political and community engagement, coupled with expert opinion pieces so as to provide robust and varied perspectives into youth engagement. Read the Report here.
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