The promising progress of the Global Skills Academy, a mission to support skills development and employability of one million people

The Global Skills Academy (GSA), a mission launched by UNESCO on World Youth Skills Day in July 2020 with the aim to help one million young people build skills for employability and resilience by June 2021, is making promising progress around the world. The Academy has so far reached around 70,000 participants, of which 38% are women, in 23 countries.

Under the umbrella of the Global Education Coalition, the GSA offers high-quality free online trainings to respond to the growing consequences of COVID-19 on skills development and youth employment around the world, with a priority focus on the least developed countries. Women, young people and non-formal workers are among those who have been affected the most by the crisis, which has resulted in economic recession and unprecedented disruptions in the labour market and halted skills development. Worldwide, UNESCO estimates that more than 300,000,000 students remain affected by school closures.

“The crisis has highlighted the urgency of equipping youth with the right skills to accelerate improve their employability and the transition to disrupted world of work and build more inclusive, sustainable and resilient economies and societies. This requires massive investment in education and skills training and expanded partnerships with employers to narrow the gap between demand for skills and the workplace.” said Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO at the launch of the GSA on World Youth Skills Day in July 2020.

With the GSA, UNESCO and the Coalition partners seek to address those challenges in ways that could promote resilience for those who need to be upskilled and reskilled among youth, adults and other vulnerable groups.

Training opportunities cover a variety of areas including digital, entrepreneurial and leadership skills and are provided in various languages including English, French and Spanish, targeting not only students, young job seekers and entrepreneurs, but also education professionals  such as teachers, trainers, instructional designers and administrative personnel. As part of UNESCO’s efforts to cater to different context-specific skills needs, beneficiaries are identified with the help of the global UNEVOC network to ensure relevant matching the demand and supply.

GSA’s current courses providers include members such as Coursera, Dior, Festo, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Orange Digital Centres, PIX, Telefonica. International Organizations such as ILO, OECD, UNITAR, ITU, WHO and World Skills Competition will also contribute to the GSA including through skills needs mapping, monitoring tools and resources.

In the framework of the GSA, DIOR has opened its online mentorship program, Women@Dior(link sends e-mail), for talented young female technical and vocational education and training students in more than 15 countries. This year-long training aims to empower young women to imagine and build a more sustainable and responsible future.

Aida Nabilah from Malaysia, a young participant and mentee currently enrolled in Dior’s programme,  shares her first impressions:

“The Global Skills Academy has so far been very helpful for me in finding who I am and the potential that I have. It has introduced me to interesting topics such as women’s empowerment, sustainable development among other things. Throughout the courses I received many words of encouragement which helped me feel more confident.”

Another well-advanced programme under the umbrella of the GSA is Pix, a French public service online service that allows individuals to assess, develop and certify their digital skills.  Currently, through the GSA, Pix is offering its contribution in six countries, such as Algeria, Benin, Madagascar, Morocco, Togo and Tunisia, and more are on the way.

As part of the Academy, trainers, trainers of trainers and students of the beneficiary institutions will have the opportunity to embark on a state-of-the-art online course and develop basic digital skills that are both important for navigating the increasingly digitalised society and for employment opportunities.

Aicha Zemni, a project manager at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Professional Integration in Tunisia is in charge of the management unit of the national vocational training reform program and the national focal point for the implementation of the Pix partnership in Tunisia. She shares her thoughts about the importance for young people to acquire digital skills:

“Digital skills are the work-place tools now and in the future. Everyone must develop these skills in order to be able to either access training remotely, navigate in their everyday life where services for citizens are digitized, and have more opportunities for employment, since digital technology is present in almost all economic sectors and occupations.”

The first meeting of the GSA Partners will be convened on the 11 December 2020 to take stock of the progress, share lessons learned, and explore potential synergies among the GSA partners to speed up the implementation phase. The outcomes of this meeting will pave the way for further collaboration in 2021 and inform the roll-out of the Academy beyond June 2021.

Some of the partners’ contributions:

  • Festo: Water Technology Program (e-learning modules)
  • IBM: Free access to platforms providing training on emerging technologies and upskilling and reskilling for youth and adults (SkillsBuild and Open P-TECH)
  • Microsoft: Free online courses and real-world tools to build skills in technologies that help students and jobseekers succeed in a post-Covid world (Microsoft Educator Center and Microsoft Learn)
  • Orange: Orange Campus Africa, free online courses.
  • Coursera: offering Coursera for Campus (an online platform for Universities). Provides free access to over 3,600 online courses from leading universities and companies.
  • Telefonica: is offering free access to all online courses they offer through their online learning platform Conecta Empleo.