From July 17-20th the Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme under the name 33Fifty took part in Scotland. Here one of the participants Usman Ali gives us his views on youth development and employment...

I recently attended the 33Fifty Programme where Ahmed Adamu, Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, was speaking. He talked about an issue which interests me very much and is close to my heart. Ahmed told the audience that the biggest issue affecting young people right across the Commonwealth today is employment.

You see, giving young people a great start in life is the greatest gift any parent, sibling, relative, community, professional, government, country and even the Commonwealth can provide. No matter who you are, we all have a significant role to play. We need to ensure that all our young people have first class education access, facilities and resources as well as access, opportunities and support for training and employment. It should be an ambition for us all and together we should set out to deliver it. 

The average Youth unemployment rate across the Commonwealth has been measured and stands at 22.9%, higher than the global average which stands at 19.2% according to the Commonwealth Youth Development Index. This cannot go on. Our young people not only deserve better, it is their right to have better. Better education, better training, better employment, better support and all that can only be delivered through better access, opportunities, resources and a joined-up approach.  

In essence, I see success in the areas of education and employment being achieved by looking at this as a journey. I call it the employment journey. This actually starts while a young person is at primary school. This is because the employment journey not only prepares young people to pass exams, take up a training placement, get a job or even progress through the ranks in their chosen careers or professions. This is the journey that prepares young people for succeeding in life.

Let me tell you exactly what I mean by the employment journey which I have developed, having taken a keen interest in this policy area and having looked at what needs to be done to make it better. There are 4 S’s in this journey which can also be seen in the diagram below: seeking employment, securing employment, staying in employment and succeeding in employment.

Common Voices Usman Ali Image

Around this is the context in which the employment journey operates and can be understood. There is a landscape which includes the features, societal groups, organisations and individuals involved along the journey. Sometimes, these are a regular occurrence, appearing a number of times along the employment journey. Also, there is the environment, which is the setting someone finds as they travel along their employment journey.

The skills and employability pipeline is what policymakers in the Scottish Government have developed as part of the current Youth Employment Strategy of Scotland. I have adapted and incorporated these into the employment journey because of their importance to making individuals better skilled and equipped to succeed in life as well as being attractive to prospective employers. The 5 strands of the skills and employability pipeline are: initial engagement with those from furthest from the Labour market; engagement in structured education and training; mainstream post-education and training; workplace pre – employment training and in –employment support.

Some may ask how the employment journey can be applicable or even relevant to young people across the Commonwealth, given the huge variation of jobs, education systems, barriers and paths to economic employment available. The employment journey is an idea which can be applied pan-Commonwealth and across the globe with local challenges, situations and solutions fitting into the wider picture. The journey is very much personalised and focused around the individual’s aspirations and expectations. The nature of the context, environment, landscape and employability skills pipeline that young people find themselves surrounded by will also ultimately hinder or assist them to succeed. It is precisely for these reasons that the employment journey can apply to all young people of the Commonwealth, irrespective of what country or territory they belong to.       

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Royal Commonwealth Society.

If you are a young leader like Usman why not check out our youth leadership programmes here.

Find out more information on the work of the Scottish Trade Union Congress Youth Committee.