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Younger Workers and the Future of Work: Unlocking Potential Through Skills Development

In our rapidly evolving world, it is more critical than ever to equip younger generations with the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in the workforce. World Youth Skills Day, recognized annually on July 15, serves as a reminder of the importance of investing in the development and growth of young individuals. By empowering them with the right tools and opportunities, we can lay a solid foundation for their success and secure a prosperous future for both the youth and society as a whole.

But we have to act quickly. Salvatore Nigro, CEO of JA Europe, summed it up when he said, “The skills canyon needs to be addressed urgently if we want to avoid the loss of a generation and talent, because we know that youth has the skillset and mindset to succeed in the global digital economy and building thriving communities.”

It is essential to recognize the importance of empowering our younger generation and helping them develop the skills necessary for success. Here's how:

Embrace Reskilling and Upskilling
The nature of work has undergone significant transformations in recent years, driven by technological advancements (such as automation), globalization, and shifting market demands. The jobs of today and tomorrow will require a new set of skills, including adaptability, critical thinking, creativity, and digital literacy. To ensure the success of Gen Z and younger workers, it is crucial to embrace reskilling and upskilling initiatives. Encourage them to actively pursue new knowledge and expertise in their chosen fields.

Nobel Prize winner Jan Tinbergen said, “Inequality is a race between technology and education.” So our role in the S (of ESG) is really with our academies and as part of an ecosystem alongside with universities, governments, institutions, and employers to create different answers to make structural changes needed.

Until just a few years ago, out of ten people entering our branches, we were able to place seven or eight. Today, it's much less. Why? Because even for a blue collar job it is important to have some basic technology or digital skills. That’s what employers want. Technology is impacting who can play the game. This is where academies and different types of education can change that status. Because the study-work model, especially in Europe, is dead. We need to think differently. Today, there are too many people moving from unemployed to unemployable because they don't have the minimum requirements to enter the labor market because of the speed of the technological revolution.

Skills training and vocational education will play a pivotal role in preparing young individuals for the world of work. By equipping them with industry-relevant skills, we empower them to seize emerging opportunities and contribute meaningfully to the economy. This not only benefits young workers but also enhances productivity, innovation, and overall economic growth. Moreover, skills training instills confidence and self-esteem in the youth, enabling them to pursue their passions and aspirations. It empowers them to become active contributors to society, breaking the cycle of unemployment and underemployment. By investing in their development, we foster a sense of purpose and fulfillment, leading to more engaged and motivated individuals.

Foster a Growth Mindset
Younger workers often face uncertainty and ambiguity as they navigate their careers. Jobs that exist today may become obsolete, while new roles will emerge. To navigate this evolving landscape, young people must be equipped with a growth mindset and a continuous learning mentality.

Create a supportive and inclusive work environment where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities rather than failures. Encourage open communication and feedback, allowing young workers to reflect on their experiences, identify areas for improvement, and develop strategies for growth. By fostering a growth mindset, organizations can empower young workers to adapt to change, embrace innovation, and continuously develop their skills, ensuring they remain agile and resilient in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

Facilitate Networking and Mentorship Opportunities
Building a strong professional network is crucial for career advancement. Encourage Gen Z and younger workers to attend industry conferences, join relevant online communities, and connect with professionals in their field. These networking opportunities can provide valuable connections, insights, and potential career opportunities. Offer guidance on effective networking strategies, such as actively participating in discussions, reaching out to professionals for informational interviews, and leveraging social media platforms like LinkedIn. Emphasize the importance of nurturing relationships by following up with contacts, expressing gratitude, and offering support or assistance whenever possible. Networking can significantly expand their professional horizons and open doors to new opportunities.

Additionally, establishing mentorship programs that connect young workers with experienced professionals who can share their expertise, help navigate challenges, and provide valuable insights based on their own entrepreneurial journeys. Encourage cross-generational collaboration, where younger workers can learn from the wisdom and experience of senior employees, while also bringing fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table.

Support Entrepreneurial Ambitions
Gen Z and younger workers often possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit. By providing resources, organizations can empower their people to thrive as entrepreneurs. Offer workshops, seminars, and online courses to develop their skills in financial management, marketing, and problem-solving, which are essential for navigating the business landscape. Encourage them to explore entrepreneurship as a viable career path by sharing success stories of young entrepreneurs and showcasing the potential rewards of pursuing their own ventures. Foster a culture that embraces innovation and creative thinking, where employees are encouraged to challenge the status quo and think outside the box. By nurturing their entrepreneurial spirit, organizations can unlock the potential for groundbreaking ideas and drive long-term success.

Promote Equal Opportunities
There’s no two ways about it, younger generations are more diverse, representing various cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. By investing in their skill development, we foster inclusivity and diversity in the workforce, creating a more vibrant and innovative environment. Investing in the skills development of young people plays a crucial role in fostering social equality. It provides an avenue for marginalized individuals to overcome barriers and access better job prospects. By prioritizing inclusivity and providing equal opportunities for all, we can reduce unemployment rates and bridge the socio-economic divide.

As we encourage diversity in the workforce, organizations benefit from a broader range of perspectives, ideas, and innovations. This investment will help create a more inclusive and prosperous society.

Collaborate for Success
Investing in the skills development of young people requires a collaborative effort between businesses, governments, educational institutions, and communities. By forging partnerships and leveraging resources, we can create comprehensive programs that address the specific needs of young individuals. Collaborative efforts can also involve the establishment of incubation centers or innovation hubs that provide infrastructure, resources, and a conducive environment for young individuals to develop their skills and/or entrepreneurial ventures.

Employers consistently express their struggle in finding individuals with valuable human qualities such as reliability, resilience, problem-solving abilities, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Recognizing this need, ManpowerGroup partnered with JA Worldwide to offer young people a remarkable opportunity to cultivate these essential skills and gain real-world work experience that sets them apart from others.

Beginning in 2009, the ManpowerGroup-JA Worldwide partnership quickly expanded to encompass various regions and in 2015, a pilot project was introduced across several European countries, capitalizing on the enduring local relationships established in places like Norway, Spain, and Italy. Over the next several years, this initiative has grown to encompass 30 countries worldwide, leaving a positive impact on countless students, paving the way for promising careers.

Through a combination of mentoring activities, coaching sessions, and entrepreneurial contests, ManpowerGroup and JA are dedicated to equipping students with the skills necessary to thrive in the workforce, not just upon graduation. A standout feature of this partnership is the prestigious MapowerGroup “Ready for Work award presented annually at the JA Europe Gen-E event.

This recognition goes beyond a mere accolade; it signifies a genuine investment in the potential of young individuals for their future endeavors. The recipients of the Ready for Work award are paired with ManpowerGroup career coaches for an extensive 12-month mentoring program, during which students receive invaluable coaching, assessments, and career guidance.

Through partnerships like the ManpowerGroup-JA Worldwide model, businesses can play a vital role by offering apprenticeships, internships, and mentorship programs that provide real-world experience to young workers. 


World Youth Skills Day serves as a timely reminder of the importance of investing in the younger generation, nurturing their talents, and equipping them with the skills necessary to succeed in the world of work. By embracing lifelong learning, promoting inclusivity, and fostering collaboration, we can create an environment where young individuals thrive and contribute to a prosperous future. 

Let us collectively invest in the potential of the youth and build a workforce that is prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.

About the Author

Riccardo Barberis was appointed Regional President, Northern Europe in May 2021. In this role, Barberis oversees all of ManpowerGroup's brands and offerings across the region – Manpower, Experis and Talent Solutions. Barberis will lay the path to further accelerate ManpowerGroup’s diversification, digitization and innovation plans, creating even more value for clients and candidates and strengthening our performance in the region. Barberis joined ManpowerGroup in 1998 and has held numerous leadership positions in Europe and Latin America, most recently as country manager for ManpowerGroup Italy. With 25 years of experience including many international roles his deep industry knowledge and passion for a client-first, candidate-centric approach consistently delivers superior results. Barberis holds an Executive MBA at Bocconi University (Milan), has accomplished management programs at INSEAD and speaks five languages. He currently serves as Board Member of Junior Achievement, Vice President of the Italian Industry Association, Assolavaro and President of ManpowerGroup's Human Age Institute. Barberis lives with his wife and three children in Milan.

Profile Photo of Riccardo Barberis