We need to empower the world’s 1.2 billion young people to have the right skills to meet their full potential. At Standard Chartered we are helping make this happen through our Futuremakers programme. I’d like to explain why and how.
Ladder of opportunity
I was privileged to grow up with plenty of opportunities to learn. I received good primary and secondary education. My time at university enabled me to build valuable skills and knowledge, while summer jobs as a teenager helped develop my work ethic and communication skills. So, when I joined the professional workforce in 1983, I was already starting from a solid foundation. My experience convinced me that a quality education and the right skills training are critical if young people are to successfully participate in the labour market.
But I know that my story is not replicated in many places, especially in low- and middle-income countries where access to universal education and skills training remains challenging.
"Most of the world’s 1.2 billion people aged between 16 and 24 live in countries where just one in three people finish secondary school"
This leaves a significant number of young people without the basic literacy and numeracy skills they need to gain meaningful work. For young women and people with disabilities, such as visual impairment, there are additional barriers to accessing quality education and skills training that further diminish their chances of becoming economically independent. We cannot ignore this skills gap among our youth.
As the nature of work changes (think artificial intelligence, automation and globalisation), how can young people in less privileged circumstances be expected to adapt, let alone succeed? How can we – companies, governments and communities – promote upward mobility and build a skilled workforce? And how can we prepare young people for work so we can deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goal to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030?
We can't turn a blind eye
As CEO of a global organisation, this matters to me. We are here to drive commerce and prosperity in the markets and communities in which we operate, but there will be neither commerce nor prosperity if young people cannot contribute to society – as employees, entrepreneurs, consumers, professionals or engaged citizens.
"If we don’t act now, we risk creating a disenfranchised generation and jeopardising economic progress that benefits everyone"
I believe companies have a unique opportunity to drive the skills agenda. They can work with governments to identify the skills needed to support economic growth and with NGO partners to break down the barriers facing disadvantaged young people.
At Standard Chartered, addressing the youth skills gap is one of the key drivers of Futuremakers, our new global initiative to empower the next generation to learn, earn and grow. Our aim is to raise USD 50 million through fundraising and Bank-matching to deliver education, employability and entrepreneurship programmes in communities where we work and live. We already have Futuremakers projects active in 22 markets and we hope to see this go up to 35 by the end of the year.
Futuremakers builds on the success of our existing community programmes that deliver financial education, life-skills and vocational training, and entrepreneurial support to young people in our markets. Our girls’ empowerment programme, Goal, has reached more than 480,000 adolescent girls across 20 markets through sports and life-skills training since 2006, and our financial education programmes have reached more than 450,000 young people and nearly 11,000 entrepreneurs in 21 countries since 2013. Futuremakers is just getting started and I am confident that as it rolls out around the world, it will become a mobilising force for good in our communities.
"Every skill a young person adopts exponentially increases her or his odds for success"
It is an investment not just in an individual’s future, but in the future of the family, community and society as a whole. The potential for Futuremakers to narrow this skills gap amongst our youth is significant.
I am excited to see where Futuremakers takes us, but we can’t do it alone. Addressing the youth skills gap requires everyone – companies, NGO partners, governments, communities and individuals – to work together to deliver real impact to those who need it most.