Tag Archives: youth

Meeting NEETs’ Needs: Libraries and Youth Skills

Today is World Youth Skills Day, focusing on the importance of giving young people the skills they need for economic and social integration.

As the United Nations’ own website underlines, young people (aged 15-24) were, even before the crisis, three times more likely to be unemployed than older workers. With the same group often in more precarious work, this figure is likely to have got worse during the pandemic, as was the case with the recession following the financial crash of 2008.

While many young people are not working because they are studying, for many – around 21%, based on 2015 figures from the World Bank – are not. Some may be in informal work, but this is not necessarily a better situation, given that this can be even more precarious and less likely to lead to a career. They are described as Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET).

This is a serious issue. Periods out of work can have ‘scarring’ effects, leading to unemployment or lower skilled or less fulfilling work later in life, as the OECD has underlined.

As a result, a high share of NEETs can be an indicator of a higher rate of inequality later. This is why it is included as one of the indicators used in the Development and Access to Information report, produced by IFLA in partnership with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington.

To look further into the details, there is strong regional variation, at least among the countries for which data is available. While only 4.6% of young adults in East Asia are NEET, this rises to 23% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 28% in Southern Asia Oceania. In some countries, the figure is higher than 50% – notably the Maldives and Trinidad and Tobago.

Looking across the countries for which DA2I Country Analyses are available, Trinidad and Tobago indeed stands out for its high share of NEETs, although Bulgaria also has a higher rate than average for developed countries.

Meanwhile, Argentina, Austria, Ecuador, Finland and Slovenia all have lower shares of NEETs than both the global and relevant regional average.

For those countries which do have higher shares of NEETs, libraries can offer a valuable tool.

As set out in our blog for last year’s Youth Skills Day, information skills are becoming increasingly important, and libraries can provide an excellent place for developing these.

Furthermore, as our summary of evidence from World Library and Information Congress papers has underlined, libraries are also realising their potential to act as gateways for people of all ages to new skills, jobs or entrepreneurship opportunities.

Indeed, as the chapter of last year’s Development and Access to Information report focused on SDG 4 – Quality Education – by Dr Katarina Popovic underlined, ‘Access to information is an important precondition for achieving the targets of SDG 4. Without a full recognition of this in the discourse about the 2030 Agenda, accompanied by greater investment in education and lifelong learning, huge groups of people will be left behind by 2030.’ This applies as much to young adults as anyone else.

In those countries which do have high shares of NEETs and well-developed public library field – as is the case in both Bulgaria and Trinidad and Tobago, there is therefore an interesting potential to work through these institutions to offer new possibilities to young adults.

Where library networks are less strong, developing them may help strengthen the infrastructure available for helping NEETs, as well as providing a wide range of other public goods.

Making best use of existing library networks and supporting their further development could be a great way of helping build skills and resilience among youth, even in the most difficult times.

Information for Youth: Celebrating World Youth Skills Day 2019

It is a cliché to say that children are the future. However, what is certain is that the experiences of young people today will stay with them for years.

The skills they learn, and how they apply them, have the potential to shape the rest of their careers and personal lives, and the societies they live in.

This is why the United Nations has chosen to dedicate an international day to youth skills – World Youth Skills Day.

This blog explores the reasons behind this, and makes the case for focusing, in particular, on information skills. This, it concludes, is an area where libraries can make a crucial difference.


Why youth, why skills?

As the United Nations’ own website sets out, youth represent a major part of the world population. One in every six people on the planet is aged between 15 and 24 – that’s 1.2 billion people in total.

Such a huge population implies both major opportunities and major challenges.

Get things right, and there is a huge generation of people who are capable, confidence, and ready to tackle global challenges.

Get things wrong, and there will be a wave of young people who are disaffected, disconnected, and frustrated.

Currently, the risk of a negative scenario is high. Young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and face poorer quality jobs, greater inequalities and more insecurity.

As set out in the introduction, negative experiences in these formative years can have ‘scarring’ effects, leaving many young people permanently disadvantaged and disconnected, socially, economically and democratically.

The goal, then, of World Youth Skills Day is to underline the need to invest in helping youth make the transition from school into the labour market, from childhood to adulthood, and to become active and engaged citizens.


The growing need for information skills

It is perhaps another cliché to talk about the growing importance of the internet and information. Yet this is also a truth, not only when it comes to jobs, but also to broader social, cultural and civic life.

As highlighted in a previous blog, there is a risk of information poverty becoming a factor that reinforces income poverty.

Those who don’t have access to information, and the skills and confidence to use it, are more likely to struggle to find work or benefit from government schemes. They are less likely to be able to take the right decisions, or call for better conditions or laws.

They are also at greater risk of falling victim to some of the negative aspects of online life, such as a loss of privacy, cyber-crime, or the sharing of deliberate misinformation.

In short, if we are thinking about the skills that young people need in order to stay safe and succeed in future, information and digital skill are certainly an important part of the picture.


The contribution of libraries

This is where libraries come in, bringing two key advantages.

First of all, they can offer a valuable complement to the work of schools. In many situations, the education system has not kept up with the digital world. Young people may develop valuable knowledge of academic subjects, but nothing that can be easily operationalised.

In Kenya, for example, the library in Kibera complemented the work of skills by giving young people access to technology and skills training. This paid off in terms of better exam result, and the first ever admissions to prestigious national schools from the town.

For young people who have finished formal schooling, the library can be the only gateway to skills development.

Secondly, libraries have a particular expertise in the way that information is managed, shared and used.

While this has, in the past, primarily been applied to helping researchers choose between resources to use, there is a growing awareness that the ability to find, understand, evaluate and use information – information literacy – can be applied in all areas of life.

While this role is still developing, it is clear, in the US for example, that young people already see libraries as a place to come in order to make better use of information.


The success or not of efforts to support young people to make a successful transition to adulthood will have a major impact on our future economies, societies and democracies.

With an ever-greater role for information in all parts of our lives, the capability and attitudes to make best use of this must play a part in any comprehensive youth skills strategy.

Libraries are already working to make this a reality.

Happy World Youth Skills Day!

Libraries at the African Youth SDGs Summit

Damilare Oyedele at the African Youth SDGs Summit

Damilare Oyedele at the African Youth SDGs Summit

By Damilare Oyedele, Library and You

Over 1,200 young people from across Africa gathered at Accra International Conference Centre, Accra Ghana from 7th – 9th November for the 2nd edition of the African Youth SDGs Summit.

The African Youth SDGs Summit is an annual continental summit that gathers young people from across Africa to deliberate and design solutions that will facilitate the gradual implementation and accomplishment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union 2063 Agenda.

This year, the theme for the summit was “Partnership with Youth to Achieve the SDGs: Moving from Policy to Actions”. The 3-day continental gathering of young changemakers across Africa created blueprints, networks, and implementation plans for young people’s engagement and inclusion in SDG planning and implementation across the continent.

In view of this, the importance of access to information as a necessity to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals was also deliberated upon on the day 3 of the summit. To this Damilare Oyedele, Co-Founder & Chief Executive; Library and You had a parallel session where he made a presentation on; Libraries in our society: Prerequisite for the successful accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa. The presentation gave birth to a project launch called Library Impact Project: access to information for Africa’s development

Library Impact Project is an initiative designed to provide capacity, create awareness on how libraries can contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with the view to facilitate partnerships and collaborations with policymakers, individuals, changemakers across Africa to engage libraries in their countries to accomplish the SDGs.

It is obvious that Africa’s future lies in the hands of her youths, and we all have the responsibility to take action and create sustainable solutions that will transform ‘Mother Africa’, to create the Africa we want, to create a better place for the current generation and generations unborn. However, for this to be a feasibility, access to information for all is eminent beyond comparison.