Empowering the Future Workforce

This piece by Jane Wales, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council and the Global Philanthropy Forum, first appeared in The Huffington Post. Follow Jane Wales on Twitter for more insights into strategic philanthropy.

According to the World Bank Group, “Over a billion people of working age [ages 15-64], most of them women, are not participating in the labor force.  Among those who do participate, around 200 million are unemployed, including 75 million youth (under the age of 25). An additional 600 million jobs are needed globally over the next decade to keep employment rates stable and to keep up with population growth.”

Like the crises described in my previous post, a challenge of this magnitude requires coherent strategies and action across public, private and social sectors and a collective focus on advancing broad-based economic growth and inclusive development.

Progress is being made. Through their strategic grantmaking, impact investing and individual actions, philanthropists and business leaders around the world are advancing these goals through a number of strategies, including:

  • Promoting the accessibility, quality and relevance of elementary, secondary and tertiary education that includes training in both cognitive and non-cognitive skills;
  • Supporting programs that identify and nurture ethical leaders and provide them with the skills and values-based networks they need to succeed;
  • Assuring access to capital, mentorship and training needed to start, sustain and grow commercial enterprises;
  • Leading “inclusive businesses” that deliver social benefit as part of their value chain, sometimes foregoing early profit in order to assure long-term social gain;
  • Enhancing the status of women and girls by providing them the tools they need to succeed;
  • Advancing human rights, including labor rights and the rights of children and minority populations; and
  • Improving public health by strengthening systems to prevent or treat communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Over the past few years, the Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF) has worked to highlight mechanisms for equipping current and future generations with the skills needed to enter the global workforce. And we are seeing many of the aforementioned strategies come to life through the actions of GPF community members and those they support. For example, Ashish Thakkar, founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation, launched an African multi-lingual web and mobile platform — Mara Mentor — that links ambitious African entrepreneurs with successful and established African business leaders for advice and mentorship. And we all admire the work of Arif Naqvi and Frederic Sicre, who, through The Abraaj Group, support young business leaders and early-stage companies and work with NGOs to improve education and create jobs.

To make certain women and girls are not excluded from the workforce, Peter and Jennifer Buffett of the Novo Foundation invest directly in empowering girls by providing opportunities to cultivate the social and emotional skills needed to transition effectively from school to work. Nalini Gangadharan, founder and executive chair of the CAP Foundation and the CAP Workforce Development Institute, links learning and livelihood for disadvantaged youth and women in India and sub-Saharan Africa. Janet Longmore, founder and CEO of Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT), empowers people living in communities that are developing, in transition or under stress with the confidence to use technology for entrepreneurial, community, educational and personal development. And to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce, Kohl Gill, founder and CEO of LaborVoices, is providing real-time worker feedback to supply-chain managers.

But despite these impressive examples of progress, among many others, much more work is needed to adequately address the worldwide jobs challenge. How can we change societal expectations and thinking about education so that there is more of a focus on the skills needed to enter the workforce — from digital literacy and critical thinking to confidence, communication and leadership development? And what is the role of philanthropy, government and the private sector in increasing opportunities for market-driven approaches to create more jobs and prepare the next labor force? These are questions we hope to address during the next Global Philanthropy Forum conference and continue to see addressed through strategic, cross-sector collaboration around the world.