Enabling young persons with disabilities: Inclusive digital skills initiatives

15 July 2022

Leave no young person behind in the digital age

Young people and people with disabilities are among the most disadvantaged groups when it comes to getting a decent job and progressing in their careers. Unfortunately, when young age and disability are combined, the labour market situation is even more dire. The COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the challenges of the estimated 180 to 220 million young persons with disabilities around the world. In the first half of 2020, one out of six young persons were out of work and persons with disabilities were among the first who lost their jobs due to the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19.  Young women with disabilities have experienced even more disproportionate effects than their male counterparts.

The companies we represent, the Adecco Group and Nestlé, have been acting to support young people with disabilities. For example, our companies are members of both the UN Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth as well as the ILO Global Business and Disability Network. If we want to provide opportunities to some of the most marginalised in our societies, we can’t do it in isolation. Firstly, we need to, of course, partner with initiatives and networks like the ones facilitated by the ILO. Secondly, we seek to understand and address the intersecting identities of individuals, in this case people who are young and at the same time live with a disability.


Opportunities in the digital economy

The digitalisation of the global economy has further been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. From data visualisation and cybersecurity to big data analysis and blockchain technology, employers from all industries are keen to recruit and retain digitally skilled talent – and increasingly so, digitally skilled talent with disabilities. For more than one billion persons with disabilities across the globe, digital skills and accessible digital technologies allow access to information and services in daily life and provide opportunities for decent jobs in the digital economy.

However, most trainings that offer the acquisition of in-demand digital skills and certifications still fail to provide equitable opportunities and accessible materials for young persons with disabilities. This is often due to attitudinal, physical, technological, and informational barriers. To guide relevant stakeholders when it comes to making digital skills initiatives inclusive of young persons with disabilities, the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth published a policy brief to raise awareness and call for action on this issue.

Young persons with disabilities are more likely to benefit from an inclusive digital skills initiative when action is coordinated across all levels - governments, social partners, international organizations, policy-making bodies, and digital skills training providers, private sector employers and support organisations.


How companies can play a positive role

The business community we represent has the opportunity to take the lead in the inclusion of young persons with disabilities in digital skills initiatives. Other stakeholders will sometimes need the assurance that employers are willing to engage young persons with disabilities in their workplaces once training has been completed. Additionally, the private sector companies can also play a key role in determining how well the proposed training matches with the needs and expectations of businesses.  Finally, the private sector can also work on:

  • Specifically targeting young people with disabilities to fill critical talent gaps: assessing their talent acquisition programs, metrics and processes to ensure they do not unintentionally exclude young persons with disabilities as source of new talent.
  • Assess and expand diversity hiring programmes: ensuring diversity hiring programmes include people with disabilities.
  • Sharing experiences: disseminating best practices and the possibilities relating to the hiring of young persons with disabilities. The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, the ILO Global Business and Disability Network as well as national business and disability networks can play a key role in this, including in developing countries.
  • Taking on young workers with disabilities: adjusting online and offline training to make sure that young persons with disabilities can participate effectively.
  • Making workplaces disability-inclusive: making a strong commitment to disability inclusion, by developing a disability inclusion strategy, providing reasonable accommodations, and taking other measures to improve accessibility and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Creating products and services that are accessible by design.


At the Adecco Group, as one of the world’s largest employers we believe in talent, not labels, and focus on the diverse and unique skills our people bring. Our purpose is to make the future work for everyone. We want to establish a culture that powers belonging, trust and inclusion, and contribute to a world in which everyone has the chance to participate in the world of work - recognizing and valuing differences to help our business, communities and clients win.

Accessibility at work is about removing barriers to make sure nobody is excluded from taking an active part in working life. Within our own organization we strive for equity by design – concentrating on attracting, recruiting, and retaining a diverse range of talent by enabling accessibility and promoting equal opportunity for all. This includes:

  1. Creating structural inclusion such as our end-to-end inclusive hiring processes, focussing on technology, processes and hiring behaviours.
  2. Inclusive leadership, ensuring diverse thinking is respected, heard and applied through our leadership training programmes and acceleration programmes
  3. Driving a consciously inclusive culture through our mindsets, behaviours and decision making. Such as our Accessibility guide to support new joiners leverage accessible technology and our people leaders to create accessible content
  4. Taking accountability through improving the data capture and tracking of people with disabilities into and around our business to support future strategic initiatives.

We will continue to challenge ourselves and others, push boundaries, and strive to be at the forefront of delivering better futures for all.  And we will not rest until the future works for everyone.


At Nestlé, we believe that communities cannot thrive if they cannot offer a future for the younger generation. We firmly believe we must do everything in our power to help them, and we cannot leave anyone behind. We are partnering with the ILO and The Valuable 500 to ensure meaningful action and progress in disability inclusion. We have publicly committed to advancing accessibility for people with disabilities within our operations; promoting awareness and understanding of disability inclusion; and leveraging our Nestlé Needs YOUth programme, which helps young people develop the skills they need to find jobs or create their own businesses, to support them. We will continue to look for more ways to help young people living with disabilities access meaningful economic opportunities.

We encourage more organizations to take this important step for ensuring inclusive digital skills initiatives for all, including young persons with disabilities. Together, we can equip all young people with the skills and opportunities for succeeding in the future.


Read more in the Policy Brief – Making Digital Skills Initiatives Inclusive of Young Persons with Disabilities.  

Get in touch for questions or comments at decentjobsforyouth@ilo.org.


Sarah Cheyne 

Group VP Talent Experience, Inclusion and People Analytics, the Adecco Group

Laurent Freixe 

Chief Executive Officer Zone Latin America (LATAM), Nestlé

Year of publication

15 July 2022