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Tourism Top

Celebrating youth: preparing the tourism workforce for a digital and sustainable future

A growing body of evidence-based research indicates that education and training, when supported at the macro level, are important means of enhancing youth employability. Young people need relevant skills, knowledge, competencies, and aptitudes to help them obtain jobs and establish career paths. As the demand for skilled labor rises owing to globalization, technological advancements, and the changing organization of work, quality education, and appropriate training will be key to addressing employment challenges.


Bridging the gaps in tourism

Skills training programs provided by governmental, non-governmental, and international organizations can be an important means of bridging skills gaps and providing youth with opportunities to acquire job-relevant knowledge. These include targeted vocational training programs and, increasingly, training programs aimed at providing youth with life skills centred around effective communication and negotiation, decision-making and problem solving, leadership, personal finance management, and critical thinking.


Quality in skills training for sustainable development

The effectiveness of such programs depends largely on the quality and duration of the training and the program’s ability to target specific market demands. In this regard, the best programs are developed in coordination with private sector employers, as this approach ensures alignment with market needs and makes employers aware of the training, as stated in the UN report in Youth and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development | United Nations For Youth.


More emphasis on youth development competences


However, one thing should not be forgotten; youth development competences. An interesting perspective comes from an article on a competency-based approach to preparing staff as recreation and youth development leaders.  As suggested by Barcelona et al. (2011), staff could respond to the needs of another special population, younger people, by utilizing the following youth development competencies:

  • Understanding the concept of positive youth development and asset building
  • Ability to implement a youth-centred approach for recreation program delivery
  • Knowledge of youth risk factors and ability to identify potential areas of risk for youth
  • Understanding the importance of youth involvement and ability to implement the youth voice within the scope of recreation activity programming
  • Understanding principles of child and adolescent development principles
  • Ability to effectively communicate and build relationships with youth


During the formative period between childhood and adulthood, young people begin to define their aspirations, pursue economic independence and establish their place in society. For many, this period includes the transition to the world of work. The reality is that for a substantial number of young people, the transition from school to work is not easy or smooth but instead represents a period marked by instability and frustration. For them, participation in the labor market is characterized not by decent work but by income insecurity and poor job quality. For those able to find a job, informal sector work and underemployment are common, while many others face prolonged periods of unemployment at the start of their transition to the workforce. This happens in tourism as well as other sectors. During these extended periods without decent work, the skills young people acquired as students are eroding and declining in economic value. Young people need relevant skills, knowledge, competencies, and attitudes to help them obtain jobs and establish career paths. As the demand for skilled labor rises owing to globalization, technological advancements, and the changing organization of work, quality education, and appropriate training will be key to addressing employment challenges.


Ensuring that present and future generations of youth have the tools they need to successfully navigate the school-to-work transition and securing decent work is essential for the well-being of both young people and the economy as a whole. The alignment of education and skills with the needs of the labor market enhances opportunities for decent work. This dynamic relationship between education and employment constitutes a key component of the 2030 Agenda.


Youth and the way forward in tourism


Commissioners Breton and Schmit (European Commission) hosted on 29 October a Round Table discussion on skills for the tourism ecosystem with senior representatives from the industry and other relevant stakeholders. The objective was to discuss and provide top-level political momentum to the development of partnerships and lay the ground for a Pact on skills in tourism. There was general agreement that Europe’s tourism is facing unprecedented hardship this year because of the pandemic and businesses survival is the main concern; this situation intensifies the major structural challenges linked to the competitiveness of tourism businesses, adoption of digital tools, difficulty in finding appropriate staff and the image of a sector offering low wages and difficult work conditions.


The need to address the fragmentation of skills initiatives in the EU and encourage core training initiatives which can then be easily adapted for local and regional use;  encourage closer cooperation between companies and educational institutions to set jointly curricula and apprenticeships programs; the need for alignment of education content and industry forecast, are stated in the Pact for Skills of the roundtable of tourism report, by the European Commission.

Very early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it became evident that young people would be among those hardest hit by the containment measures, such as closures of schools and workplaces, and therefore it was important to support young people to build back better for the future.

Exactly one year ago, the Commission proposed the Youth Employment Support (YES) to support young people, which was not limited to crisis support but also had as an objective of helping young people in the long term and should continue to onboard, upskill and reskill youth for a career in tourism.

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