When it comes to the younger generations and sustainability, engaging with youth in the right way is critical to achieving Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
Global Head of Sustainability at HCLTech, Santhosh Jayaram, and Executive VP, CEO of Zone Latin America at Nestle and Global Alliance for YOUth Chair, Laurent Freixe, discussed how critical it is to engage and enable young people to create more sustainable communities.
“As a matter of fact, half of the population—four billion—is under 30 years of age. At Nestlé, we believe that it is critical to engage and enable the youth to help us create a more sustainable future,” said Freixe.
“I firmly believe that communities cannot thrive if they're not capable of integrating their youth, and there is no better way to integrate the youth than through education, through enabling them digitally and through a formal job. Someone with a formal job will be integrated into the community and will be able to contribute.”
Providing people with opportunities in the field of sustainability and having them accept those roles is different today than it was in the past.
Jayaram noted that in his generation, the job was the purpose, but now youths are looking to take jobs with a purpose instead. He adds that there are two ways to look at engaging with youth on sustainability. One is to see the responsibility we have towards the youth and address them as a beneficiary of what is happening in sustainability today. The second is to channel their energy towards active participations.
Nestle’s journey for accessible economic opportunities
By 2030, Nestle wants to help 10 million young people around the world access economic opportunities through employment and employability, agripreneurship and entrepreneurship. The initiative was in response to the United Nations launching its 17 SDGs to address global challenges.
Freixe noted that the context for the initiative started nearly a decade ago when youth unemployment in various developed countries like Germany and Spain was high and it was impacting an entire generation.
“We were doing it because we have always put a lot of emphasis on training and hiring young people, but I felt that we had to frame it into a program, to bring it to another level of ambition.
“Engaging the entire organization from top to bottom and making a commitment to hire and train more young people and to promote vocational education—the one that combines the theory and the practice. We strongly believe in the power of this model,” said Freixe.
Nestle was able to partner with other like-minded companies today including HCLTech in setting up The Alliance for YOUth and hopefully creating a snowball effect for greater and collective impact.
Addressing the youth skills gap
After engaging and enabling younger generations to create more sustainable communities, young people must be taught how to do so. HCLTech’s TechBee program is dedicated to helping students pursue higher education and careers in the IT field.
“The TechBee program is an early career program for Class XII students, and what they can do is a one-year training with HCLTech and they will be recruited as full-time employees,” said Jayaram. “And they can also pursue higher studies while in the job with the top universities.”
Another initiative from HCLTech, Jayaram details, is looking into the migration of youth for jobs by opening offices in tier-2 and tier-3 locations to bring job opportunities near where they already live.
Jayaram also mentioned the Sports for Change Initiative of HCL Foundation. The program nurtures sport talents and helps them get the right scholarships to continue studies and sports. The initiative is providing holistic development of youth which in turn creates a sustainable impact.
Skills needed for the future
Digital skills and STEM skills are going to be critical moving forward, as it will be important for the youth to access knowledge, information and be able to connect with communities.
“I really believe in the importance of soft skills. Attitude is everything,” said Freixe. “People with energy, with willingness to change the world will always make a greater impact”.
Freixe added that people will need what he calls “super collaboration” as a skill, saying that “we are in a context where we must collaborate with each other” and that together, we can make an impact.
Jayaram said that curriculum for IT should be updated as technology evolves to not make teachings obsolete after a short period of time. If the teaching is, the youth who learned it will come into the job up-to-date.