According to the ILO Global Employment Trends for Youth 2010 Report, global youth unemployment has reached its highest level on record – 81 million – and is expected to rise.
We face the risk of "losing a generation" with disastrous consequences for our communities. In many countries, there's a demographic gap between supply and demand in the labor market: the number of young workers entering the labor market is much lower than the number of older workers exiting the labor market.
But the skills gap is far more alarming.
The impact of both of these gaps is evident in the UK and throughout the world. Siemens currently employs 16,000 people in the UK, and we are already seeing that there are not enough qualified young people to replace the highly-skilled older workers who are approaching retirement. We cannot close the demographic gap retroactively, but we certainly can close the skills gap – through education. Clearly, education is the key to youth employment, and this is where both government and industry must take action to engage and inspire young people.
Government can help by creating labor policies that guarantee young people equal opportunity and adequate job security and by ensuring that its educational system promotes interest and excellence in math, science and engineering from early on.
Industry must make recruiting, hiring, and educating the young people entering the workforce a top priority. What counts here is to reach out to them in new ways, to provide educational opportunities that appeal to them, to offer them attractive and secure entry-level positions, and to give them long-term employability perspectives through lifelong learning.
What we at Siemens have learned is that industry should be just as concerned about youth unemployment as political leaders. Allowing the skills gap to widen even further jeopardizes the competitiveness of both countries and companies. And, for all government and industry can achieve individually, we can achieve so much more working together.
At Siemens, we have taken affirmative and proactive steps to fight youth unemployment. In Germany, where we have a strong apprenticeship tradition, we have created 250 additional vocational training opportunities for disadvantaged young people. In the UK, we see a revival of the apprenticeship track to engineering careers. Currently 142 apprentices work for Siemens in the UK, with more planned.
And we work together with governments all over the world. We contribute our experience and expertise in the education of young people. We support schools in motivating parents and staff to nurture interest in science, technology, engineering, and math and so inspire young people to later pursue careers in these areas.
And we work with local communities to make sure that young people from all backgrounds are given access to the future and to opportunities to shape it. Our Sustainability Pavilion in the Green Enterprise District of East London is a good example of that. It will act as a global showcase for sustainable urban technologies from smart grids to energy-efficient buildings and, at the same time, it will give young people in the local community and beyond hands-on access to the technologies of the future.
Of course, there is much more to be done. That is why Siemens is supporting the Global Youth Employment Agenda. No young person should be left behind. We need each and every one to shape a sustainable future.
The author is.... ( Peter Löscher is the President and CEO of Siemens)