Programmes help young people rise to life’s challenges

Helping our youth to stay inspired, empowered and engaged is the responsibility of all of society, writes Clare Woodcraft-Scott

Including youth in governance is a key driver of economic progress and sustainable development in any nation. In the UAE, and the Arab world, where youth forms a significant percentage of the overall population, ensuring that their voice is heard at a policy level is all the more critical. How we deliver on this call to action is key.

At Emirates Foundation, where youth development is at the core of our mission, we believe that including youth in governance is vital. There is a clear need to integrate their views into the country’s development since they will become the change agents of tomorrow.

At our most recent board meeting, our chairman, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, set a new challenge for us – to ensure that we are creating sustainable social impact for youth all across the UAE and to focus particularly on young Emiratis living in areas of low population density.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid the Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, recently called for “a young and flexible government that will fulfil our youth’s aspirations and achieve our people’s ambitions”. He also announced the creation of a new ministry headed by the Minister of State for Youth, Shamma Al Mazrui.

This new platform is aligned with our model of venture philanthropy, which takes a market-based approach to philanthropy. Rather than surmising the needs of youth, we have to listen to them. We undertake market research and respond to targeted needs and challenges of people between the ages of 15 and 35. Based on this, we develop solutions to real problems with a focused operational portfolio.

With the onset of the digital revolution, the world has become more complex. The speed of change is exponential. Successful companies can go out of business overnight and the traditional labour market with jobs for life is history. Some research shows that young people now entering the workforce will have an average of 17 jobs in their lifetime.

As such, young people face myriad challenges and choices. In making choices, they are influenced by the traditional community of family and friends, and by a whole new world accessible in cyberspace. Today, they need a lot of support to manage this new universe, and to understand and secure their place in the global labour market.Our Takatof volunteering programme aims to engage young people with their community, build their confidence and reveal to them a sense of purpose that is disconnected from paid employment. Our Sanid emergency volunteer response programme allows youth to manage a crisis and be prepared to support the country in the case of a natural disaster, strengthening their confidence and leadership skills.

Our financial literacy Esref Sah programme helps youth navigate the complexities of the financial world, and educates them on how to save, manage their personal finance and avoid high levels of indebtedness.

Our Think Science programme helps young people actively engage with the digital revolution by providing them with solid Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills, encouraging them to innovate and deploy technologies that addresses some of today’s broader socio-economic challenges.

Our Kayani programme assesses how non-academic vocational skills can support those youth who may not be academically inclined, but who are keen to engage in the labour force, and notably young women living in areas with less easy access to jobs and training.

Our Kafa’at programme focuses on teaching leadership skills to help youth navigate the complexities of the 21st century, helping them to understand the opportunities of their immediate economy, engage with the enterprise sector and understand how to secure and create jobs. It also connects youth with the private sector, providing internship opportunities and mentors to help them build their career.

Each programme is an effort to guide and inspire youth and is run like a business with a core focus, measurable outcomes and a goal to become a financially viable social enterprise with scalable and sustainable impact. To date, we are proud to have served over 60,000 young Emiratis. In a world where we may not know what the jobs of the future are, where companies can suddenly go out of business and where the digital revolution is creating a huge need to manage change, the work of organisations such as ours becomes more important than ever.

We welcome the vision, guidance and focus of the leadership on the role of youth. As Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has said: “Our young country was built by the hands and achievements of youth. Youth is our strength and speed and is our treasure for the future.” In other words, without the voice of youth we are directionless.

Helping our youth to stay inspired is the responsibility of all of society. Without our collective support, to provide them with the skills they need for a changing world, they will surely struggle to achieve their potential. It’s a call to action that we all need to heed today – the private, public and third sectors working together to nurture and deploy the talent of our future leaders and guide them on the path to sustainable development.

Clare Woodcraft-Scott is chief executive of Emirates Foundation