WIL 2017 Moderated Panel Discussion – Youth, Education and Impact

Panel: Youth, education and impact

New research reveals that 80% of fresh graduates are leaving university unprepared for the workplace. They hold a degree, attended prestigious universities and enrolled in internship programs – yet the region records 23% of youth unemployment, against a global average of 13%. Meanwhile, employers are waging a fight for talent in the region, competing to find young recruits with the potential to innovate, disrupt and embrace existing processes.

However, in a rapidly evolving economy, how much does education really matter? Much has been said about the future of work, but what does the future of education look like, and whose responsibility is it to drive this change? What is the role of corporates in bridging the skills gap? This session will discuss non-conventional education, analyse education models and propose solutions to support the transition towards a knowledge-based economy and build minds that will drive tomorrow’s world.

Moderator:  Anjum Malik, Founder and Managing Partner, Alhambra US Chamber (USA)


Sallyann Della Casa,  Lead Tree Shaker  Growing Leaders Foundation (UAE)

Dr. Ozge Akbulut, Co-Founder, Surgitate  Assistant Professor, Sabanci University (Turkey)

Mara Kronenfeld, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa  International Youth Foundation (USA)

Jos Dirkx, Author, ‘Tackled!’ and specialist on millennials and education

Anjum’s opening remarks:

Over the next 45 minutes we will discuss how young women today are being educated and the impact of that education on their life/ their future, particularly their ability to successfully join the workforce and earn a livelihood for themselves and their families.

Our panel brief cited a shocking statistic – “80% of the fresh graduates leaving the university are unprepared for the workplace.”  Whether you agree with the percentage cited or not, there is universal agreement that too many youth are unemployed globally and a disproportionate share are female.  Fortunately, the conversation highlighting and surrounding this crisis has begun to gain traction, and there are changes being made. But, as is all too often the case with massive challenges such as this one, those changes feel too small and too slow.  It is easy to see the changes as either patches on old systems or successful programs that too costly to scale rather than the true innovations we sense are required.

During today’s panel, we will be discussing the three main stakeholders – employers, education providers, and youth – that were identified in McKinsey’s report from 2012, Education to Employment: Designing a System that Works.   In order to keep the focus on EDUCATION’S answer to the crisis, let’s utilize the World Economic Forum’s map of 21st Century Skills with its three categories of Foundational Literacies, Competencies, and Character Qualities for the 16 skills listed. https://widgets.weforum.org/nve-2015/chapter1.html

The growing consensus on the need for Social and Emotional Learning (known as SEL) is a welcomed sign of progress. In WEF’s listing SEL’s are the majority and include the following: critical thinking/problem solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, curiosity, initiative, persistence/grit, adaptability, leadership, and social and cultural awareness.  There is also a growing consensus on the need for learning by doing and for ed-tech/serious games.

As someone who has spent her working life in the education sector and as an educational entrepreneur, I find this conversation on the education-to-employment pipeline to be exciting and inspiring.  I’ve helped thousands of students successfully bridge into a new educational setting in a new country using a new language.  I’ve mentored these same students as they bridged into employment and often into further training.  For me, the recognition of the important role that SEL’s play in our ability to build a life of meaning through employment reinforces what I know from my work. It is a critical step of progress in the goal to understand how best to educate any student and provide them with the tools they need to innovate themselves in response to the changes they and we will face in the future workforce.

Please help us create a panel that is interactive and informative by asking questions and joining us in what promises to be a robust discussion. We have much to learn from each other.

Questions submitted by the panelists:

Mara Kronenfeld, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa  International Youth Foundation (USA)

1)      When young people are engaged and educated, they can be effective agents of change, shaping our world the better. What are some of the trends facing the growing number young people globally who are unemployed, under-educated, and generally disaffected? [I will respond from some of the data from IYF’s just published 2017 Global Youth Well-Being Index]

2)      How critical are so-called “life” or “work-readiness” in bridging the gap between education and employment? Do such skills have a role to play in the formal education sector? [Will report on data from UNICEF Led Life Skills Mapping exercise in MENA]

3)      What role can the private sector play in ensuing education is relevant to expanding markets. What are the core technical and soft skills employers are currently looking for? In which sectors are so called “ life skills” most demanded?

4)      How can life skills acquisition – whether in the formal education sector or training environments – be accurately assessed and measured? What tools currently exist that can measure such acquisition among young people looking for a job and interested in “signaling” their “work-readiness” to potential employers?


Dr. Ozge Akbulut, Co-Founder, Surgitate  Assistant Professor, Sabanci University (Turkey)

1) What kind of education system would serve to create global citizens who are motivated to attack global problems?

2) How do we impart multidisiplinarity to education such that the product designers/ problem solvers can operate at the interface of several fields?

3) How to enable students to be good entrepreneurs and incorporate the idea of product-based, tangible problem solving to their curricula?


Jos Dirkx, Author, ‘Tackled!’ and specialist on millennials and education

1) How worried should we be about the gap in education as a result of technology?

2) A Harris poll conducted by the nonprofit Growing Leaders found 69% of people 18 to 34 years old said they think they learn more from technology than from people.

3) When a degree feels like ‘a must’, yet it’s not necessary (and perhaps not even more than just a door opener), how necessary is formal education?


Sallyann Della Casa,  Lead Tree Shaker  Growing Leaders Foundation (UAE)

  • What are the jobs that robots, AI and Automation won’t steal in the future and why?
  • In a recent interview by Farix Zakaria with Microsoft CEO on CNN he was quoted as saying  ” To stay relevant in the future people need to become “more human”. What did he mean by that and how are our educators preparing our children to become more human?
  • What will need to change for educators to seriously step up and re-design how and in what we educate youth?
  • Is the purpose of school to spit out youths that are employable? Or is it something else?
  • How can we re-define or re-imagine the role of private companies in education?