We are living in unprecedented times. The Coronavirus pandemic has rapidly triggered a deep economic and social crisis; likely the worst in modern times. Young people are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, leading to a substantial and rapid increase in youth unemployment since February 2020. Many will not be able to finish their studies and will struggle to enter or re-enter the labor market, and to start their own businesses.
I firmly believe that the private sector has a critical role to play. Companies are the main source of jobs and have the power to provide work-based learning opportunities, combining theory with practice. Apprenticeships and traineeships improve the employability of young people and prepare them for the jobs that society needs.
In the context of a technological revolution, it makes sense to recruit young people to tackle what is both a challenge and an opportunity. As more companies embark on ambitious sustainability strategies, the need for new types of jobs– including green jobs–is increasing, creating new employment opportunities that will enhance resource efficiency and build low-carbon sustainable societies. Companies can also boost their innovation pipeline and develop creative solutions by supporting young entrepreneurs throughout their value chains.
This is precisely why we launched the Nestlé needs YOUth initiative back in 2013, with the aim of providing job and training opportunities for young people across the globe. Amidst the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are scaling up online training solutions to ensure the continuity of our traineeship and apprenticeship programs. We are also working with public and private institutions in many countries to create new programs that will help young people develop the skills and resilience they need to be successful in today's challenging job market.
For instance, in West Africa young people receive support through the Youth Agripreneurship Development Program (YADIS), which was initiated by Nestlé and our regional partners in 2019. When the pandemic started to spread, YADIS offered extra training and mentorship to help the young farmers enlarge their fields and increase their crop yields.
In Mexico, Nestlé organized 6,000 individual digital live coaching sessions on vocational guidance, employability and innovation over the course of only three months.
In the UK, 170 apprentices benefited from 30 different virtual training programs offered live or through pre-recorded sessions. Thanks to this effort, the vast majority of apprentices were able to continue development in their specific occupation: from engineering to finance and data science.
We are accelerating our efforts with the ambition to help 10 million young people around the world access economic opportunities by 2030. However, more needs to be done. We are living in times that require bold and decisive actions to overcome the devastating impact of the crisis on the future of youth.
Companies can only do so much individually, but they can multiply their impact when they join forces and work together towards common objectives. Nestlé created the Alliance for Youth in 2014, which now has 22 leading global partners and more than 300 companies around the globe. Together, we are committed to supporting youth by offering first job experiences, running educational programs to help youth develop necessary skills and promoting and supporting young entrepreneurs.
Over time, we have established valuable collaborations with key international organizations, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Bank, and the Global Apprentice Network (GAN), among others. The GAN is a great example of multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration among governments, the private sector and development partners. Together, our goal is to accelerate the acquisition of skills and capabilities of all segments of the workforce and build a robust talent pipeline for business that can match the pace of change in the world of work.
Today more than ever, all parts of society must respond – governments, multilateral organizations, academic institutions, private sector and youth – and they must work together to find solutions and implement them.
In this context, the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth plays a vital role in bringing together and fostering collaboration among a wide range of key actors. Together, they scale up action and impact on youth employment in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We have been an active member of this global effort since its launch in 2015, and we urge more companies to join and commit themselves to action for a brighter future for our youth.
The current crisis requires a balanced and collective response. This response should involve both productivity and recovery efforts as well as significant investments in new capabilities and new technologies. We need to skill, reskill and upskill the younger generation. This is the only path to sustainable growth; this is the only way out of the crisis.
By Laurent Freixe, Nestlé Chief Executive Officer of Zone Americas, and Chair of the Global Apprentice Network (GAN) and of the Global Alliance for YOUth.
This article is part of the Decent Jobs for Youth Blog Series: Youth Rights & Voices. The Blog Series highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young women and men in the world of work and discusses action-oriented policy responses and solutions. If you would like to comment or contribute, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.