World Youth Skills Day 2018 was celebrated for the fourth consecutive year on 16 July at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The event was organised by the Permanent Missions of Sri Lanka and Portugal to the United Nations in New York, in partnership with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, ILO and UNESCO. The event was attended by over 120 participants, representing Member States of the UN, UN agencies, youth and civil society.
On 18 December 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus, resolution, A/RES/69/145, titled ‘World Youth Skills Day’, spearheaded by Sri Lanka, declaring 15 July as World Youth Skills Day. Since then, this has been an annual event celebrated at the UN. This year’s event was held under the theme ‘Sustainability and Innovation’, and was co-chaired by Permanent Representatives Rohan Perera of Sri Lanka and Francisco António Duarte Lopes of Portugal. The event explored how the issues of exponential technological change and skills development are interrelated, and the actions which need to be taken to empower youth to become drivers of a sustainable future. Permanent Representative Rohan Perera of Sri Lanka, in his opening remarks, highlighted the pros and cons of an increasingly digital world with technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and big data changing the way people consume, live and work. He highlighted that the challenge is to harness the positives of technological advancement, while minimising the negative of technological unemployment or underemployment.
UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák, who delivered the keynote address at the Opening Session of the event, noted that youth of today face many new challenges, unlike previous generations and that the quality of education available to most youth did not respond to current world trends. He stressed on the importance of including young people in making and implementing policies and investing more in skills and education.
Deputy Minister of Science, Technology, Research, Skills Development and Vocational Training, and Kandyan Heritage Karunarathna Paranawithana, while delivering his address as the Guest Speaker, stated that Sri Lanka places great importance in developing its young people, by imparting employable skills through Technical Vocational Education and Training as a key in the economic and social development strategy of the country. He outlined the many policies and programs that Sri Lanka had formulated and implemented to promote youth skills development at the national level.
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake, and UNESCO Director Marie Paule Roudil also delivered remarks at the Opening Session.
The Interactive Panel Discussion, featuring panellists from civil society, private sector, education and business sectors, and youth was followed by a vibrant exchange of views with participants. World Youth Skills Day 2018 brought together the voices of Member States of the UN, the UN system, private sector, academia, civil society and youth organisations to discuss how to leverage innovation and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning to boost youth employment and implications in skills needs and skills development systems.