THE BLOG

Youth Unemployment Demands Action From Businesses around the World

01/26/2013 09:43 am ET | Updated Mar 28, 2013

The number of different sessions here at the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos is truly astounding. Since it's my first time attending, my goal in coming here to the World Economic Forum was to attend the sessions where I could gain the greatest insights to take back to my work at Adecco Staffing U.S. Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend a session titled, "The Human Capital Context," and it was one that really resonated with me, given that talent is a core part of Adecco's DNA.

The session featured a panel of experts from different facets of the employment equation --including the London School of Economics and Political Science, Hilton Worldwide, PricewaterhouseCoopers International, China Europe International Business School, and Adecco Group's global CEO Patrick G. De Maeseneire.

What was especially interesting for me to learn is just how serious the youth unemployment issue is globally. More than 75 million young people around the world are unemployed and those numbers continue to increase, given the ongoing economic problems facing areas such as Europe and the U.S. Despite the seriousness of this issue, however, it interestingly hasn't gotten as much attention in the states as it has in other parts of world. Given the U.S. unemployment rate for this demographic is 15 percent, it seems we should be making this a higher priority issue.

An element even more troubling than the youth unemployment rate is a theme I've heard over and over during the past few years -- and again during this panel. It's not that there aren't jobs out there -- because there are in many cases -- it's that there aren't enough qualified candidates to fill those open positions; something that's especially true for young workers. I learned that in Europe there are an estimated 3 million jobs that cannot be filled, despite the fact that 25 million people, mostly young people, are out of work.

This is, quite simply, troubling -- not only for a professional like me who works in the staffing industry and prides myself in helping put people to work each day, but it should also be for business owners, the U.S. workforce, and educational institutions. The panelists agreed that the education system is not serving students well by teaching skills that simply don't translate to the "real world." It's no longer just about the need to train around the hard skills anymore -- soft skills and behaviors, such as discipline or reliability, are also lacking.

Perhaps this issue in particular really resonated with me because I feel so passionate about the importance of fixing the skills gap that exists in our country. Certainly big business can't bear all of the blame about the unemployment rate among youth, but organizations must begin to invest time and effort into candidates that have promise but may not have 100 percent of the skills or the training that are required. And for someone like me, who is in the business of putting people to work, I take responsibility in ensuring we're doing what we can to provide job seekers with the right training. The goal is for them to not only find a job that is the right fit for them from a skill level, flexibility, and industry standpoint, but also a meaningful career path.