The topic of unemployment is often discussed and debated, but what about youth unemployment? According to the World Economic Forum, there are 1.2 billion youth in the world aged 15 to 24. They comprise 17 percent of the world's population and 40 percent of the world's unemployed. What separates the youth who can secure employment from those who cannot? The answer is training and work experience.
We need new skilled talent entering the workforce, and more specifically entering manufacturing. The necessity for this is apparent when looking at the fact that manufacturing grows GDP, stimulates innovation and creates employment that strengthens our nation's infrastructure, economy and middle class. For example in the US, where there is 16.3 percent youth unemployment, did you know that 70 percent of R&D spend and 90 percent of all patents have come from manufacturing and one in six US private sector jobs depends on the US manufacturing base? What people often do not realize is that manufacturing today is a sleek, technology-driven industry that offers secure, good-paying jobs. Employees earn on average a higher salary (20 percent more weekly) and are more likely to receive health care and retirement benefits than from other industries.
To educate and train young people well is fundamental for allowing them to create their own future. This is critically important for the individual as much as it strengthens the communities they live in. Career skills are the glue that connect diverse skill sets and technical knowledge into a productive, team-oriented workplace – how to work in teams of professionals and skilled workers, how to problem solve, how to be accountable. Most workforce development programs for youth focus on acquiring the knowledge to move students into entry-level positions. In the development of the curricula, training and education providers consult companies about the required knowledge, and, to a lesser extent, about the competencies that students should be able to demonstrate by the time they finish their coursework.
Alcoa is celebrating its 125th Anniversary on Oct. 1 with a $1.25 million internship program for 500 unemployed and underemployed youth (ages 18 to 24 years) in eight countries (ten locations) over the next two years. Managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE), the goal is to provide youth with the workforce experience to pursue a successful career in manufacturing.
Alcoa Foundation will partner with nonprofits in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Jamaica, Spain, United Kingdom and United States, which run job readiness and employment programs to offer both job training and internships with manufacturing companies in the local community. This is important because small and medium-sized manufacturers make up 80 percent to 90 percent of manufacturers. The internship program gives them the resources and visibility to promote career opportunities, strengthening both the community and the workforce at the same time.
In addition, local nonprofits will work with Alcoa locations, providing volunteers to mentor interns. Each nonprofit will receive an average of $125,000 to deploy a paid-internship program in the community.
The workforce development challenge and issue of unemployed youth is not going to be solved by one program or one organization alone. The key is to work with partners, share successes and create a ripple effect.
Scott Hudson is the principal manager of the Alcoa Foundation.