Are We Preparing Our Youth to Face the Challenges of Tomorrow?
A country’s capacity to help young people in gaining higher education is the most important factor in improving quality of life for the generations to come. Education and employment indicators show that highly educated individuals are more likely to be employed. But during the recent economic crises, the relative benefits of higher education have being pared down.
With the onset of the Great Recession and the sluggish labor market, there have been widespread reports of newly minted college graduates who have failed at finding jobs suited to their education level. It has increasingly become difficult for recent graduates to secure a job and those who do find work, often get confined to low-wage positions.
Case of Pakistan’s Youth
In Pakistan, the overall employment and labor market situation continues to give rise to serious concerns. The Pakistani labor market needs the highest attention in economic as well as social policy-making. The rise of unemployment rate from around 3 percent in the early 1990s to around 8 percent in recent years reflects the emergence of a serious imbalance in the labor market.
Unemployment is a major contributory factor in the rise in poverty. The biggest challenge that Pakistan faces today is that a large proportion of the recent college graduates are jobless. The unemployment among young people in the 15-24 age groups is more than three times the overall unemployment rate.
Youth and Pakistan’s Economy
In Pakistan, around 63% of the population is concentrated below the age of 25 years which means that many graduates enter the labor force annually. But most of them aren’t absorbed into the workforce.
Our country requires a growth rate above 10% in order to absorb this increasing number. But Pakistan’s economy has slowed down in the past years and creating employment opportunities for youth has become a daunting task. Today, very few opportunities exist in the formal sector and have been shrinking for some time.
The trouble with recent graduates popping out in Pakistani universities and colleges is that most of them have little interaction with the real world. With the growing intersection of technology and business, there is an immediate need to tackle both short-term and long-term unemployment of youth so that they do not become a significant burden on the society. There is a need to overcome disparity between education and training of young people in the context of growing burden on cities and urban centers.
But most colleges and universities are still primarily running students through a “one size fits all” model. They assess students in standardized ways, overlook the students’ unique strengths and talents and completely ignore the economic realities. Our economy is changing but it does not mean that our graduates/workers are ready for it. Most of them are struggling to survive and thrive in the new economy but most of Pakistani youth do not have the know-how or the resources to re-skill themselves in face of an adapting labor marketplace.
Promoting Freelancing and Entrepreneurship in Academia
Although youth issues have been ignored in the past, there’s no time like now to embark on an action plan for Pakistani youths’ social and economic issues including employment and entrepreneurship challenges. In order to promote youth development, they need to be empowered for active participation in community and society.
In Pakistan, colleges and universities are not moving in the direction of providing substantive practical exposure to the students to prepare them for post studies life. Currently, our universities do not give students hands-on knowledge about how to learn and think independently.
Freelancing and entrepreneurship is now a commonly chosen path for many students. Sadly, these two disciplines are not commonly taught in colleges and universities, even given its importance in today’s world.
The modern economy is closely associated with freelancers; they are the prime focus of attention with an aim of enriching our understanding of the contextualization of entrepreneurship. Freelancers enable entrepreneurship by creating a positive business context conductive for some of the key determinants of entrepreneurial performance.
For becoming an entrepreneur, there is a need to take on the freelance route first as it gets you a feel for your desired industry, and also helps you build up your experience and professional network. Freelancers facilitate the use of de-risking strategies, reduce financial constraints, and increase entrepreneurial agility productivity as well as facilitating market entry.
Freelancing can be a huge benefit to those who consider becoming entrepreneurs later down the line due to similarity between working freelance and setting up a company.
Entrepreneurship and freelancing programs can be a lot of fun for the youth but beyond fun, they can connect to real business opportunities and hopes for success. This kind of education can give wide scope to student creativity, energy and offer a positive way to channel their talents.
The Key Benefits
Teaching of freelancing and entrepreneurship as subjects in schools and colleges will have the following positive impacts:
Paying Tuition fees in college/university,
Promotion of innovation and resilience and positively contributing to the country’s economy
Provides youth the ability to succeed regardless of their background
Give youth a sense of meaning and belonging.
For making future bright for the Pakistani youth, freelancing and entrepreneurship must be taught as subjects in colleges and universities.
The instructors (with practical experience, history of achievements) need to engage students, challenge them and help develop their skills. Teachers should keep their eyes on the goals of getting their students ready for the facing the challenging tasks of the real world.
By providing such education, we can teach youth to create jobs for themselves without becoming victims to conditions of economic downturn. This can be an opportunity for them to start their own business; they can learn how business works and what makes an employee or a freelancer valuable.
The shift in viewpoint can immeasurably benefit our national strategy to combat poverty among low-income youth.
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