Younger workers: Organisations and governments must work together to empower a new generation

Individually, we invest a lot in our kids and help them be the best they can be. We work hard to make sure our own children are well-equipped for their adult life.  

The past few years have been tough for younger workers; the economic crisis has led to high levels of youth unemployment in some parts of the world. This is painfully apparent in our latest Younger Workers Index, which measures how well OECD countries are developing the potential of their younger workers over time. It’s clear that some countries are far better than others at getting the most from their younger workers.

Our Younger Workers Index estimates that the potential gain to the OECD economy from improving youth empowerment – by reducing the number of young people who aren’t in training, education or employment to the levels seen in Germany – is £1 trillion. What economy or business wouldn’t want to see that happen?

Organisations face competing forces.  They are challenged to do more with less – and that includes people. Organisations’ ability to tap into the gig economy, other contingent or outsourced workers and to automate tasks previously done by humans is a seemingly clear path to productivity and efficiency – but it also creates a tension with their ability to build trust with its workers and society more broadly.  How do organisations do right by their employees and help younger workers develop the skills society needs for the future?  

Businesses need to think much more clearly about how helping workers build skills fit for the future of work impacts the building of their pipeline of leaders for tomorrow – and how they make those ‘intangibles’ such as learning and development and building professional networks part of their Employer Value Proposition.  

Our recent Global CEO Survey shows organisations in most countries have largely given up hope that their government will produce the skilled, educated and adaptable workforce that they need. 76% agreed that this was essential to society, but just 26% felt that their own government was effective in doing this. In many parts of the world, in the absence of reliable state-run education and training, businesses are taking up the baton. In the UK, inventor Sir James Dyson is about to put his money where his mouth is, by helping to bridge the national engineering skills gap with the launch of a new university.

The only solution is for governments and businesses to work together to give our young people the best possible chance. That means equipping them with the complex combination of skills needed to prepare them for the future of work.

View Carol Stubbings’ profile on LinkedIn