Powering up Sri Lankan Youth: Airtel energizes #21for21

Celebrating a month dedicated to empowering youth, Airtel Lanka partnered with the USAID-funded youth skills development and entrepreneurship project, YouLead to mark World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) and International Youth Day (IYD) 2020 under the theme of ‘21FOR21’. The objective of the campaign was to introduce 21 critical skills for youth employment and entrepreneurship in the 21st century.

This year’s WYSD & IYD took place in a challenging context. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have led to worldwide slowing down and in most cases closure of educational institutions, threatening the continuity of learning and development. In an effort to support recovery, Airtel collaborated with YouLead to give youth an opportunity for uninterrupted skills development online during the pandemic.

Advocating certain skills important to Airtel such as critical thinking, leadership, innovation, technological literacy and diversity, the campaign featured a resource site, youlead.lk/skills, which hosted content including a series of videos highlighting the role of these skills in successful careers followed by multiple webinars to further hone in on the practical content and the importance of these skills at the work place.

Commenting on the partnership, Airtel’s CEO & Managing Director, Ashish Chandra said: “The digital age has been characterised by a rapid shift from traditional industry to an economy primarily based upon information technology. Hence, it is vital that our youth recognize and adapt to the emerging skills demanded by this broader shift. Doing so will be the key to leveraging new opportunities. As a telco which champions youth empowerment in Sri Lanka, we are happy to partner with YouLead in training the next generation on innovation, problem solving, critical thinking, technology literacy and many other skills essential for them to thrive in the workplace of the future.”

Funded by the American people, YouLead works to improve technical and vocational education and training, create a more skilled workforce, and increase employment by undertaking activities that support and strengthen students, teachers, institutions, and entrepreneurs.  It is supported by the U.S. Government’s development arm, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The ‘21FOR21’ campaign concluded with a photography competition calling in submissions to capture “skills in action” at workplaces. The winners of the photography competition were awarded a smartphone device provided by Airtel, which could be utilised for work/study-from-home purposes.

As a global initiative spearheaded by Sri Lanka and adopted by the UN general assembly in December 2014, WYSD also serves as a reminder to young people and educators alike to cultivate demand-driven, industry-focused, high quality technical and vocational skills to generate youth employability. According to the Sri Lanka Labour Force Survey, only 30% of youth aged 15-24 entered the labour force and among these 21.4% were unemployed which was 53.4% of the total unemployment rate in Sri Lanka (Department of Census and Statistics, 2018).

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