Helping the world’s young shape a positive future

How do we help young people around the world meet the challenge of change? Ahead of Misk Global Forum 2017, our Secretary General Bader Al Asaker has written this important article for CNN:

Young people are facing the challenge of a disrupted employment market in every corner of the world, and these changes are happening at an unprecedented pace and scale.

The previous industrial revolutions of steam, electricity, and digitalization brought their own changes and disruptions. But the much-heralded “fourth industrial revolution” is now blurring the lines between physical, biological, and digital spheres. And unlike the other phases of change, this process of change is happening at an exponential, rather than linear, rate.

This disruption is unquestionably creating significant challenges for countries, societies and individuals. But equally, if not arguably more so, it is also creating significant opportunities. Some of these opportunities we can’t yet envisage, but it is clear that many lie in the growth of the knowledge economy, where intellectual ability and technical understanding, analytical skills and creativity are prized over more traditional capabilities such as physical labor.

Both the fourth industrial revolution and the knowledge economy are changing the professional demands put on young people. And they will continue to do so in ways both predictable and unforeseen.

These pressures and challenges are global — and so must be the solutions.

As noted by the World Economic Forum, it is predicted that two-thirds of children in the early stages of school today will gain employment in roles that don’t exist at the moment. The rise of automation will fundamentally alter almost all professions. Adaptability, creativity, an entrepreneurial mind-set and strong social skills will all be as critical as the more analytical skills traditionally demanded by science, technology and engineering professions.

The risks inherent in this process of exponential change are high. So how do we ensure our children are not left behind?

In Saudi Arabia, where well over half the population is under 30, we fully recognize that comprehensive action is imperative. We are seizing the moment to equip our young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to not just meet these challenges, but to rise above them and excel.

By ensuring that our education system prepares its students for the modern world and that the world of work beyond school welcomes our ambitious young people — of both sexes — we are opening new avenues of life in the Kingdom for all our citizens.

And by helping to unleash the potential of young people in this way, we are ensuring that our society also develops into one that supports entrepreneurs, welcomes creativity and embraces innovation.

All this is in keeping with the vision of moderation and tolerance, opportunity and empowerment recently voiced by His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

And our program is not just domestic. We are also acting internationally because we know that global partnerships and collective action are necessary to meet the challenges that all this change will bring.

It is for this reason that we launched the Misk Global Forum in 2016 — and will hold its second event this month in Riyadh. Through this platform, we want to develop and harness a global network that can help clarify and define approaches that can assist young people in shaping their futures.

At the forum we are collaborating with emerging and established leaders, creators and thinkers to explore and experiment with ways to meet this challenge of change and empower young people across the world.

Research we have commissioned highlights the significance of the challenge: 57% of young people in 21 of the world’s leading economies across every continent are unfamiliar with the term “knowledge economy,” half fear that they are not tech-savvy, and similar percentages expressed concern over their employment prospects.

However, young people are also optimistic, excited, and open-minded about these changes. They recognize that even as some forms of work are rendered obsolete, new forms open up — particularly in the technology spheres.

They are themselves pioneering new ways of learning — making use of social media and other tools — to learn new, real-world skills beyond the classroom that prepare them for the changes ahead. And they are also driving new, more flexible ways of working that encourage a greater, healthier balance between life and work.

It is therefore incumbent on us to listen to our young people as much as guide them. They are the future of every country, and whether that future is bright or dark depends on the degree to which we can assist them in preparing to embrace and thrive in the modern world, rather than reject it and get left behind.

The Misk Global Forum is just one part of Saudi Arabia’s dedication to this future. A future where education is built to nurture critical thinkers and innovators, problem solvers and creators, and supports learning throughout an individual’s working life. Where business environments foster new ideas, and translate them to enterprises with ease, and a jobs market that provides for opportunity, flexibility, and portfolios of income generation. And, where communities and societies are sustainable, vibrant and supportive.

We are proud to welcome international thinkers and young people into our country to express ideas, collaborate together, and listen to each other. And we look forward to sharing the forum’s developments and conclusions with the global community.

In doing so, we hope to develop a global plan to bring all these strands together, helping all young people around the world in meeting the challenge of change.

Originally posted on CNN.com, 13th November 2017.

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