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Benedicta from Ghana was at the Getting By Workshop at Cambridge University last month. She works at Global Communities on the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE) Project, which creates economic opportunities in Ghana’s construction sector for young people.

Investing in youth employment requires a collaborative approach in prioritising decent job creation and engaging young people in policy development

During the week of April 2nd-4th April 2019, I was one of young Gamechangers from 6 Global South countries who gathered at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge to foster discussion on how young people are making a living and addressing the challenges affecting them.

As a young person, actively participating in a high level workshop such as this was a true example of meaningful youth engagement. The highly interactive workshop themed “Getting By: How will young people make a living?” brought together various sector experts and young delegates. Young delegates were not only listened to but also given opportunities to ask challenging questions to other participants and make contributions to the topic of discussion.

Benedicta (middle) on a panel at Cambridge University at the Getting By workshop

In the next decades, the World Bank estimates that 1 billion young people will enter the labour market and approximately only 400 million of them will have jobs. This estimation gives a picture of what youth livelihoods would be in the future and the imbalances, leaving us to find the answer to the question: “how will the other 600 million young people will make a living?”

A variety of challenges young people face in making a living emerged during the workshop discussions. However, the quality and quantity of jobs being created was raised as a main issue. Skilled young people find themselves in low income jobs and jobs that do not fully utilise their skills and expertise because of the lack of jobs available.

The challenge now is not in the number of jobs created but ensuring that jobs created are decent and sustainable for young people. As such, there is a need to improve the quality of working conditions through better minimum wage regulation, health and safety at work and social security provision.

Another topic we discussed was the rise of young people moving into entrepreneurship and highlighting the challenges that they face. Where opportunities for formal employment are limited, entrepreneurship programs encourage young people to be job creators rather than job seekers. These young people are faced with the responsibility for creating employment and therefore faced with the challenges that come with it.

Beneditcta (second from the left) on a panel among the other Gamechangers at the Getting By workshop

The attendees pointed out that access to financial capital is a main challenge faced by young people running a business, however, we the Gamechangers reiterated that actually lack of business development skills and acumen are in fact the most pressing challenge.

To solve this, innovative hubs, skills training and mentorship programs are needed extensively for young people. Undeniably, young people need financial capital to start and sustain these enterprises, however this resources are scarce.

To get around this, young entrepreneurs often begin enterprises on a small scale and lett their business grow at its own pace until enough capital is generated to scale up. This their way of getting by to make a living.  

Following young people’s journeys in the Youth Think Tank report on Hospitality and Tourism, it’s worth noting that “work ethics, honesty/integrity and problem solving/efficiency skills”, which was also presented on during the workshop as the most relevant skills demanded by employers. As such educational and skilled-based training programs should have curricula which prioritises soft skills development.

Beneditcta (second from the left) on a panel among the other Gamechangers at the Getting By workshop

To conclude the workshop we agreed on the fact that the youth employment challenge cannot be fully understood or resolved without creating meaningful and accessible spaces for young people to engage in decision making. There is a need to involve young people in accountability and policy development.

Looking back, the workshop has fuelled my desire to better understand what the future of work looks like for young people and how we as young people are shaping this future.

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