Youth and women in the 21st century workforce: Technology may be key, but only a part of the answer

Digital Opportunity Trust

Blog #3 in a special series for the 2012 Youth Economic Opportunities Conference
September 11-13, 2012 | Washington, DC

Janet Longmore is President and CEO of Digital Opportunity Trust. She will be speaking in the plenary session at the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference on Thursday, September 13, 2012. While technology skills and the ICT sector are keys to the opportunities for youth in the modern workforce – it’s more than this. Youth and women need 21st century skills, personal empowerment, and behavior changes to be the driving force in the new economies.

The natural ability of youth to “get it” and innovate with technology is truly amazing. I am truly inspired as I observe youth and women seizing the opportunities that the burgeoning technology infrastructure is offering in the regions of Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East where DOT works.

As the world awakens to the economic growth and market expansion that is taking place in what is now proudly the developing world, it is youth who are leading the way. It is youth who will use the new tools of the 21st century workforce to fundamentally change the way work will be done – in ways that I cannot begin to imagine.

Yet there is no panacea – while technology is key, we must look beyond to see and support youth fully engaged in a digital economy.

Is the technology sector the final destination? If we limit our employment horizons we are missing huge opportunities. Armed with technology skills, youth will bring new perspectives, fresh ideas, and “out of the box” innovations to all sectors of their economies. In fact, I could argue that injecting the traditional economic sectors with new energies and technology may be where sustainable job creation is going to occur. We should not ignore, yet not obsess over either, the globally competitive ICT sector.

Is it simply technology skills that are the passport to the modern workforce? A resounding “no.” Technology is a fundamental skill, but the spectrum of required 21st century skills is much greater. Critical thinking, action research, communication, teamwork, and project management integrated with technology form the new fabric. Add a healthy dose of personal empowerment coaching, to develop self-confidence and self-reliance, and you have the ingredients that lead to a shift in behavior, a new youth-led equilibrium that is a driving force in the new economies.

And it is not just the energies and ideas of youth that are being unlocked by the 21st century skills key. We see the same effect amongst women, young and old, as technology, workforce skills, and empowerment coaching unleash suppressed capabilities and leadership as they increasingly take their places as entrepreneurs and business people.

Do I think technology is key – absolutely. Do I urge us all to look beyond technology – emphatically!

Janet Longmore is President and CEO of Digital Opportunity Trust. DOT is an international social enterprise that believes that youth and women, equipped with technology and 21st century skills, will be the leaders of change in their societies. DOT’s youth-led model is operating in developing countries and regions under stress around the world. Janet will be speaking in the plenary session on Thursday, September 13, 2012.

Description: Youth Economic Opportunities2012 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference
September 11-13, 2012
Inter-American Development Bank's Conference Center
1330 New York Ave. NW | Washington, DC