Youth and Future of Work Trends – Exploring Transition from School to Work Career Issues

Young people between 0-24 years are expected to be 50% of the population in Africa by in Africa by 2050. The cureent and emerging future of work trends that they need to navigate as they transition from school to work are immense. ILO in its 2019 Report, Work For A Brighter Future by the Global Commission on the Future of Work, noted and made a recommendation for more investment in institutions, policies and strategies that will support people through future of work transitions. Young people are cited as needing help in the increasingly difficult school-to-work transition. Several future of work trends have weaved a complex web. Young people will need to navigate these to succeed in planning careers, making education and training choices, securing employment, starting a career and stabilizing as part of the workforce. This blog explores all the above and provides a few tips for young people related to career planning in such a context.

Future of Work Trends Young People must Navigate

The trends presented here are not exhaustive but give an indication of the complex world young people need to navigate after school.

 1. The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Technology Disruption is the New Normal

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technology Age is the overarching change that young people will have to navigate now and in the future of work. We are already existing in this period where there are many technological advances and trends that are disruptive and changing the nature of work, how people live, learn and do business. In some instances, it is for the better, but the pace of change and the capacity of people to learn, adapt and use the technology is what makes the Fourth Industrial Revolution a challenge for many at all levels of existence.

The technology trends that we all need to know and adjust to that are influencing all other trends in the future of work include Artificial Intelligence (AI) made up of technologies such as Deep Learning; Machine Learning, Robotics, Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR), and many others. They are impacting the nature and availability of certain predictive jobs as they become automated, as well as skills in demand. [READ MORE –]

woman standing beside mannequin
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2. The Changing Nature of Work – Alternative work arrangements

One of the positive trends if that “technology is changing how people work and the terms under which they work. Instead of the once standard long-term contracts, digital technologies are giving rise to more short-term work, often via online work platforms.” [READ – World Bank – World Development Report – The Changing Nature of Work 2019]

This presents opportunities for many young people who are just starting out, as trying a hand at entrepreneurship seems to be the easy path for many. One has to note though, that in developing economies, this is predominantly the informal sector and more of a survival strategy for many. Furthermore, the challenges faced by short-term workers in advanced economies and self-employed workers in emerging economies are the same – they both face “…no written contracts or protections; low-productivity jobs; regulatory grey area; lack access to benefits and social protection etc”. [World Bank Report p. 27].

3. Lifelong Learning – a Universal Entitlement Not a Personal Luxury

Learning these days more than before does not end with the final exam and graduation certificate. What you have as a starting point may not even be enough to help you secure or create a job for yourself. This means you need to develop a learning plan and learning ecosystem around you to cover education system gaps, also to acquire and upskill to what the market demands. Agility in mindset and practice, having a willingness and ability to learn and adapt fast is what lifelong learning allows a person to do.

ILO recognizes this in the Work For A Brighter Future 2019 ILO Report and made it its first recommendation to governments, employers and institutions. They recommend that lifelong learning needs to be a universal entitlement and be supported by a lifelong learning ecosystem that is in keeping with the technological advances we face. Furthermore, they say all governments need to provide education and career management support as a public service. The individual and family support and actions in this regard is also key.

cup of coffee and a book
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4. Changing demographics and Employment trends

One of the dramatic changes of this period and the future is in the labourforce demographics globally. Secondly, this is the first time that all generations can be found in the workplace and this presents many challenges for patters of securing, creating and maintaining work. [READ: ]

Advanced economies will grapple with an aged population due to increased life expectancy, low birth rates and talent loss as Baby Boomers exit the labour market. ILO picks on this and advocates for expanded choices and flexible retirement arrangements for older workers who need to remain economically active. Migration for employment and settlement purposes, whether due to push or pull factors is also on the rise and an opportunity for young people. [READ – OECD – Matching Economic Migration with Labour Market Needs]

Emerging and developing economies will struggle with a much greater youth bulge, with Africa projected to have 50% of its population being between the ages of 0-24 years by 2050. This is the geographic space where a tri-factor of demographics, political and economic instability and employment availability clashing to present an untenable future for young people. There is generally high numbers of young people across Sub-Saharan Africa, most nations are unstable politically and economic growth is not delivering on youth employment needs, with worrying high levels of unemployment and underemployment in many countries. This has prompted institutions like the African Union, African Development Bank, ILO, to name a few, having long-term strategy documents to address these issues. [READ – ILO ReportWork For A Brighter Future 2019].

shallow focus photography of two women in academic dress on flight of stairs
Photo by Godisable Jacob on
Issues to Note for Youth Transition from School to Work

In reflecting on impacts, the overall messages for parents, institutions, governments and the young people are that in view of future of work trends, we predominantly have Unprepared Graduates for the labour market and life in general. This is in terms of knowledge, skills, abilities and resources to navigate this new terrain, also equitable access to careers, learning and life management services. Some key issues to note are outlined below – 

  • Digital skills for everyone – it important to get these not only to navigate all the tech changes, but many new jobs being created include or complement AI applications. 
  • Technology use in recruitment and Career management – this is important to note as agents and hiring companies do social media screening in addition to the submitted CV/resume review and interview process. Furthermore, AI and robotics is being used to review CVs/Resumes using Applicant Tracking System software. This means what worked for parents or people young people know, may not apply as passed on career advice anymore. It is not all doom and gloom. For those who have managed to build a strong career brand online, make use of social media to present and profile themselves and network, technology has been good to them for job search and career management. 
  • Transition period to employment and career stability is long – this is true globally as most millennials and Generation Z are taking a longer time to find their footing in the labour market in developing countries. Each context has its own issues to deal with, so note yours. In developing countries, this is exacerbated by the family expectation that once you are educated, it is your turn to educate siblings, look after parents and much larger extended families. 
  • Mental health and Wellness challenges – this is now common as many are connected, but lonely. In addition, as technology has become pervasive, they face tremendous social media pressures to portray an image of who they are not. Playground bullying and insecurities are all online now for everyone to see. Practice healthy social media habits. 
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6 Career Tips for Young People Transitioning from School to Work

Make technology and future of work trends work for you. Below are some career tips that could support your school to work transition.  Career planning in an uncertain future requires you to – 

  1. Do structured and lifelong career planning – This means investing time in self-knowledge, researching your context and the labour Market and setting goals that you act on and review. Keep abreast with trends – There is no substitute for having career information and being in the know in terms of what is happening around you and in the world. This is what will help you make informed career decisions and take appropriate actions.
  1. Invest in education, training and learning daily – Your career planning process includes a skills assessment based on options you are pursuing. This will help you identify your strengths, gaps you need to fill and to make decisions on education or training choices that are viable for your job search or job creation. Technology has enabled access to free learning content from many providers of e-learning, look for these. There are also many other ways to learn, refer to my blog and infographic on having a Personal Learning Ecosystem.
  1. Have a Job Search Strategy – develop this from your Career Plan, action and review regularly. Your work search skills and package have to be good. Refer to my weekly Career Advice webinar recording and infographic below on this as well.

CAREER ADVICE WEBINAR 2 - Job Search Strategy - 6 Tips and 30 Actions Checklist

  1. Gain paid and unpaid experience – deal with the experience challenge by looking for volunteering; job shadowing; internships/learnerships and mentorship opportunities. If you are able to be employed, be willing to start where you are and invest in learning about succeeding in the workplace.  
  1. Invest in networking and lean on your Social (parents, family, friends) and Professional Network (anyone you have had a professional relationship with. Also the networks of the people you know. The number of openly advertised opportunities at any given time is about 20%. The rest is in the hidden job market, in-house recruitment or through headhunters.
  1. Create your own employment – entrepreneurship is an option, not for everyone, but certainly for many. There are opportunities and challenges such as lack of protections and informality that you need to learn about and navigate. Develop your entrepreneurial competencies, set this up as a proper business option as much as you can, not just as a “survival hustle”. Its serious work!

 In closingit is clear that the school to work transition environment that young people will need to navigate is difficult. Parents and family need to play a much more informed and proactive role – in supporting young people with school to work transition, parents need to be equally equipped to be career advisors. It is not business as usual, e.g. hanging onto traditional notions of which career path is prestigious, will pay well and is valued. Technology is having a huge impact on the way people parent, which is a whole family transition to manage as well.

Want to hear more! Join me on Thursday 20th June for the Weekly CAREER TRENDS Webinar focused on the content in this blog. It is at 12PM-1PM GMT or 1PM-2PM Johannesburg time. Connect via Facebook Live using: 

Individuals: If you need support on how to utilise this career information for career planning, job search, career progression or CV/resume review, whether currently employed or not, get in touch using the e-mail address provided. Also share and follow this work .

20190309_084039Written by: Ennie Chipembere Chikwema, Career Coach and Learning Expert


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Twitter: @EnnieChipembere

Date published:  17 June 2019

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