Growing Tomorrow's Workforce

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Goal 8, from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, focuses on access to decent work and economic growth for individuals and nations. One of the targets of this goal is to provide young adults with better access to employment, education and training. More specifically, it looks to substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training.

Let's start by defining the difference between employment, education and training. 

Employment: can be defined as the relationship between two parties, usually based on a contract where the employer pays for work completed by the employee. Access to employment can be important for young people to attain financial security, independence, wellbeing, a sense of belonging and achievement, and skill development.

According to the U.S Department of Labor and The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an individual must be at least 14 years old as the minimum age for employment. However, 14-year-old individuals are still considered minors and can only work a limited number of hours. Also, the FLSA prohibits the employment of a minor in any work declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor (for example, work involving excavation, driving, and the operation of many types of power-driven equipment. Each state also has its laws relating to employment, including the employment of minors. Likewise, each country has their own set of rules and regulations regarding the employment of a minor. 

In general, minors are not expected to work. 

For more information about federal and state labor laws that apply to young workers, visit 

Education is one with which you are probably more familiar. Every child has the right to go to school and learn in a safe environment. However, sometimes due to poverty and marginalization, children do not have access to school and education. As a result, today, more than 72 million children around the world remain unschooled. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected area, with over 32 million children of primary school age remaining uneducated. 

In certain countries, such as Somalia and Burkina Faso, more than 50% of children receive education for less than 2 years. The problem with this is that the lack of schooling and poor education can negatively affect a country's population. In addition, when children leave school without learning at least primary education, the chances for further development and job security decrease. 

Education is essential for every child.

Training can sometimes be mixed in with education. Training is when we learn with greater detail how to complete a task. Training can have more specific goals and teaches you the skills you need for a particular job or activity. For example, carpenters, mechanics, and other labor-intense manual work requires training. Without adequate training, it becomes harder to complete these jobs. It can also be dangerous not to know how to use equipment or not understand the techniques involved in finishing the task at hand. 

Youth unemployment is a worldwide crisis, mostly because of overpopulation, limited job availability, and limited resources.

More youths are returning home to live with their parents than ever before. More are finding themselves in a competitive job market for which they have no skills or too little experience.


Youth Unemployment Through Entrepreneurship

When we talk about youth unemployment, we are not necessarily talking about the 14-16-year-olds. However, youth employment affects many over 18-year-olds who have not continued education - that means they haven't gone to university or college. 

Going to college or university is not for everyone. For some, starting their own business at an early age can have many advantages. No doubt, starting a business can be challenging and often full of risks. However, nowadays, a few things that can help:

  • Finance your business idea via crowd-funding, venture capitalists, social enterprises and startup accelerators. Venture capitalists can provide contacts, experience, and opportunities for youths to learn valued skills. Social enterprises are businesses that trade to intentionally tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people access to employment and training, or help the environment. Do you have a business idea that falls into this category? Read more about Social Enterprises in our previous article Understanding Poverty & Social Enterprises.
  • Find a mentor, someone who can help you understand what you need and the processes and risks involved. Ask your parents or teachers. 
  • Volunteer with non-profit organizations, this can help you connect with people and understand what is needed in your community. 
  • Start small by starting a new group or club at school. This can help you connect with people, understand their needs and opinions, and reinforce your leadership skills.
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Thinking Cap On

Think of a "gap in the market" in your local community. Something that needs a product or service that doesn't exist yet, or a product or service you can improve. For example, dog walking, car washing, logo making, food bank, anything that can help people improve their lives.

After you have defined what product or service you can provide, conduct your own market research. 

  • Who needs the product or service 
  • Why do they need the product or service
  • How often they need the product or service
  • What do you need to provide it, and how much will it cost you
  • Is anyone else providing that product or service in the area - competitor 

Then think about your branding and where would you start your business. Think of a name and a logo. Can you be an entrepreneur? Ask your family to mentor you and discuss your idea with them.