By Asmau Ahmad
The United Nations Resident Coordinator to Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, says the organisation’s agencies will continue to partner the government on youth employment initiatives including Generation Unlimited and the Jubilee Fellowship.
He made this known on Saturday while delivering remarks at an event co-organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) and Strategy for Mentoring Initiative and Leadership Empowerment (S.M.I.L.E) to mark the 2023 International Youth Day (IYD).
IYD is marked yearly on August 9 to draw attention to the needs of youths worldwide.
The theme for the 2023 celebration is “Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World.”
Schmale said that the UN in Nigeria looked forward to supporting the government in the work to implement the agreed Cooperation Framework for Sustainable Development over the next five years.
Through the Framework’s Transformative Initiatives, Schmale said the organisation hoped to make a real difference in the lives of Nigerian youths.
According to Schmale, IYD feels particularly important in Nigeria because of the huge population of young people in the country.
“An incredible 60 per cent of Nigerians are under-25 and the median age is just 18, making it the largest youth population in Africa.”
He noted that the theme of this year’s IYD, “Green Skills for Youth…” pointed to light at the end of the tunnel.
According to him, green skills are defined as knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society.
“As our world undergoes a green transition, an estimated 8.4 million green jobs will be created for young people by 2030.
“Looking much further down the line to 2050, there could be more than 300 million green jobs produced amid a fourth industrial revolution. But green jobs require green skills.
“Currently, the demand for those skills is exceeding the supply and the UN foresees a major skills gap with 60 per cent of young people lacking the necessary green skills by 2030,” he said.
He noted that the green skills gap was already being borne out in some nations where the race to net zero was being jeopardised by a lack of qualified workers, adding that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was also being jeopardised.
On his part, the shift toward an environmentally sustainable and climate-friendly world is critical not only for responding to the climate crisis, but also for achieving the SDGs.
“Young Nigerians like you can take the lead and position yourselves for the jobs of the future. Equipped with green skills, you can help get the SDGs back on track, while economically empowering yourselves at the same time.
“Green skills can not only put a roof over your head and pay the bills, but also provide a sense of purpose, knowing that each task completed is a step toward a more sustainable world.
“As it stands, there is a narrow perception of the kind of jobs that require green skills. That perception must expand because the career options are much broader than becoming a solar panel installer or a wind turbine technician.
“For example, you might become a sustainable material specialist for the fashion industry in Lagos. Or an agroforestry expert working on smart farming in Benue state. Or a sales manager at a recycling company in Abuja.”
Schmale further said the government must champion green skills and promote their expansion across the education and business sectors and that schools and universities must ensure that their curricula equip students with the skills of tomorrow and not just of today.
He also urged companies to do more to provide employees with the necessary skills to tackle the green transition and create opportunities for young people to learn on the job.
On her part, Mrs Bimpe Bamgbose-Martins, President and Founder, S.M.I.L.E said no nation could make meaningful progress without investing in the youth.
“There is a hunger from Nigerian youth for knowledge, direction mentorship and this gap needs to be taken seriously,” she said.