Lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic period must be utilized to have a positive effect on TVET skills development and life-long learning, and these new solutions for teaching and learning could bring the much needed innovation to education and training systems particularly in the developing world, observed Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations Dinesh Gunawardena at the opening of the commemoration event of the ‘World Youth Skills Day 2020’
Elaborating on skills development in Sri Lanka, Minister Gunawardena stated that the Government is making every effort, particularly during the pandemic situation, to extend continuous support to improving vocational training to the youth. He further explained that people who have lost their jobs due to the health crisis are being identified and skills development programmes being adapted with the aim of evolving appropriate competence for new job opportunities. The Minister acknowledged the country having successfully embarked into online platforms to conduct technical and vocational training courses, which have assisted in the expansion of the training capacity and thereby supporting life-long learning. As a result of these continuous efforts, he referred to the introduction of the National Skills Passport, marking the entry of the country into a golden era of vocational training.
Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in her remarks emphasized that, considering youth to be the backbone of any nation, every effort must be made to continue to engage and involve this young segment in grasping the opportunities provided with the changing world of work including digitization, and in moving to the New Normal consequent to the devastation posed by the pandemic. She upheld that digitalization has become more important with the current health challenge and can have a positive impact on the innovating strength of developing countries, and young people must become proactively involved in this process. Ambassador Senewiratne welcomed the initiatives taken by youth on their own to support national crisis responses to the pandemic, and underlined the need to concertedly work together on skills development, to make youth more competent in serving both the present and future.
Young people are key agents in fighting climate change, recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and achieving the 2030 Agenda, however they are also at risk of being left behind in education and employment during their crucial stage of development due to the pandemic observed the President of the General Assembly Tijjani Muhammed Bande. Characterizing that young people are resilient, which he said needs to be recognized with more investment being made in the action already being initiated by the youth to assist in mitigating the crisis. He prescribed that all stakeholders must work together to rally behind youth to develop skills required for the future.
Deputy-Secretary-General of the UN Amina Mohammed emphatically advocated the need to unite and that the current challenges demand the rethinking of skills development systems to face similar crises in the future with more agility. She stated that in this context there is a need to invest more in education to develop a more open and resilient education training systems and provide comprehensive solutions to support the required skills in keeping with the needs of the labour market. She stressed on the need for massive rescue packages to protect the futures of the young and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
While a special address was made by the First Lady of Colombia Maria Juliana Ruiz Sandoval, the Minister of Education of Portugal Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the UN, Directors-General of UNESCO and ILO as well as the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake who hails from Sri Lanka, also spoke at the opening segment of the event.
The celebration of ‘World Youth Skills Day’ was organized virtually this time under the auspices of the UN for the sixth consecutive year by the Permanent Missions of Sri Lanka and Portugal to the UN in New York in partnership with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, ILO and UNESCO on the theme ‘Skills for a Resilient Youth in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond’. It is recalled that in 2014, the United Nations General Assembly through a consensual resolution, spearheaded by Sri Lanka, Portugal and G77 & China, declared 15 July as the World Youth Skills Day. Over 1700 participants from across the globe had registered for the event today, bringing together voices of the Member States of the UN, and its agencies, private sector, academia, civil society and youth organizations, demonstrating to the world the importance of youth skills development.
The commemoration also included 2 roundtables on the themes ‘COVID-19 Crisis and the Impact on Skills Development’ and ‘Skills for Economic Resilience and Post-COVID-19 Recovery’ featuring panelists from youth organisations and technical experts from Kenya, Barbados, Philippines, Argentina, Indonesia and Uganda.