As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I spent over two years teaching English at a secondary school in a small village in Mozambique. During this time, I witnessed firsthand the obstacles, perpetuated by poverty, that prevented my students from living safe and healthy lives.
I saw death from preventable causes, a lack of access to education, limited economic opportunity, and challenges facing youth, women, and small business owners. Despite this hardship, I met countless young changemakers, determined to make a difference in their communities, their country, and the world. My service in the Peace Corps opened my eyes to the incredible potential of youth and the need for quality education in reducing inequalities, creating opportunity, and driving meaningful change.
Today, 16% of the global population falls between the ages of 15 and 24. These 1.2 billion people are activists, social innovators, disruptors, dreamers, and doers. And those lucky of us to know some of them believe in their power to create solutions that address the most critical problems facing our world today.
World Youth Skills Day 2021
In 2014, in honor of these young leaders, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 15 World Youth Skills Day. This day recognizes the inherent value of equipping the next generation with the skill sets required to pursue gainful employment, find decent work, and engage in social innovation and entrepreneurial activity. With youth unemployment on the rise since 2017, World Youth Skills Day seeks to bring together young people, policymakers, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, and employers to prepare youth with the training they need to excel in the future of work.
Unfortunately, school and workplace closures during COVID -19 caused dramatic setbacks to learning and work training, further exacerbating existing inequalities within the education system. The socioeconomic devastation of COVID-19 will take significant effort to overcome, and therefore this year’s World Youth Skills Day focuses on the creativity and resilience of youth throughout the pandemic.
SAP and UNICEF
In 2019, SAP partnered with UNICEF based on a shared belief that investing in young people’s education creates a more equitable and inclusive society. Together, SAP and UNICEF aim to help create a world where every young person has the skills they need to reach their full potential and thrive in meaningful work. To accomplish this mission, SAP and UNICEF embarked on a journey to supply underserved populations with the hard and soft skills they need to successfully navigate a changing global economy and make their mark on the world. The initial efforts of this collaboration focus on the development and implementation of scalable education models in India, Turkey, and Vietnam.
Passing the Baton
In Vietnam, SAP and UNICEF started an initiative called “Piloting Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Technology.” The program brings augmented and virtual reality into the classroom experience for students with the goal of reducing the technology gap among youth and tackling gender stereotypes within the technology field.
The story of a Vietnamese teacher, Trang Tho Phe, who participates in the program, beautifully illustrates the power of accessible education. It also reinforces the critical role of teachers and mentors in equipping young changemakers with the skills required to create a sustainable planet, society, and economy for years to come.
As a young girl, Trang walked four kilometers to school and studied by oil lamps in a space sheltered by bamboos and palm leaves. Despite the conditions, school brought Trang immense joy. She looked up to her teachers, who tirelessly helped her learn relevant skills and encouraged Trang to dream big. Trang threw herself into her studies and decided she wanted to become a teacher herself. Years later, Trang became a technology teacher at Bat Xat Lower and Upper Secondary School, encouraged by the field’s potential to positively impact her community and her strong desire to prepare Vietnamese youth for the future of work. Her recent involvement in SAP and UNICEF’s project provides her with tools to give innovative technology lessons and prepare her students for the jobs of the future.
Trang shares, “I am proud that I am setting an example as a female ethnic minority teacher pioneering technology and innovative digital solutions in my daily work. I believe it is inspirational for other female students.”
Trang Tho Phe and other leaders play an essential role in preparing the next generation for success in their professional lives. As these local heroes pass the baton to the youth, they empower the next generation of changemakers.
In recognition of World Youth Skills Day and SAP and UNICEF’s joint commitment to supporting youth with digital and life skills, follow our campaign: “Redefining (YOU)th” with SAP4Good on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Kelly Cannon is global content and communications lead for Purpose and Sustainability Marketing at SAP.
Top image ©UNICEF Viet Nam/Truong Viet Hung