Belgium -Brussels – The OECD and World Economic Forum are both looking at how nations and economies stack up for “future preparedness”. How we treat our human capital, most especially our young people, is a key measure of this.
With all the noise around trade agreements, elections and Brexit, it’s easy to lose sight of the youth unemployment statistics. But they are not going away. The average in Europe in October 2016 was around 20%.
In Spain, it rose to 43% and 46% in Greece. Instruments like the Youth Guarantee are important, but they must be followed up by policy reforms. Young people are on the front line when crisis hits the labour market and we cannot pretend that this is a temporary problem. Investing in them has stay top priority.
It is therefore fair that our educational systems are on the hot seat. This is our main human capital pipeline and it’s struggling to deliver. But education is a collective responsibility: we have to take a hard look at what all of us should be doing differently. The welfare of our communities depends on how well people and organisations can adapt to our fast-changing environment. Let’s not forget that the younger generation is also a key source of knowledge and experience when it comes to digital skills, social media and the use of new technologies in general. We can’t lose them to unemployment and we must encourage more of them to start their own ventures. New business creation is a big part of the employment solution. Responsibility falls on each of us to take care of the future. Improving employability as well as fostering entrepreneurship and innovation have to be front and centre in our education strategies.
It is refreshing to me to observe how many seem to understand the urgency. There is more and more willingness among stakeholder groups to reach out across traditional sector lines (private vs public) and more intergenerational, reverse mentoring efforts. Success is going to be driven by innovative partnerships and creative collaborations. This is critical to managing shifts in education. One might be thinking that there are too many coalitions and alliances out there—but this is necessary. The best of them will last and they will make a difference. The more business (large and small, including social enterprises) works hand in hand with education at all (age) levels, the fewer skills gaps we will have and the more we will learn about how the other half works.
For example, business-education partnerships are no longer limited to post-secondary education. More and more schools are leveraging mentors and experts from outside the classroom from all kinds of organisations, including SMEs. Working this way exposes young people to diverse careers, helps them understand the relevance of their studies and how they can apply knowledge in different ways. It’s an important pathway to more innovation and value creation down the road. The role of “educator” is evolving. How much we invest in training our educators and how many of them have been trained also has to be a key item on our list of future preparedness indicators.
We need more entrepreneurial teachers, entrepreneurial employees and, yes, more entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is better and better understood as a key competence, but no European Member State has yet mainstreamed entrepreneurship education. Only 11 Member States have made it a top priority in their national education strategy (Eurydice, 2015). Another preparedness indicator, in my view.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” once said Peter Drucker.