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Sri Lanka’s youth falling into the skills gap
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Sri Lanka’s youth falling into the skills gap

Securing a job is often daunting even for those with the requisite skills and qualifications, but it gets worse if you’re applying for a job for which you are not trained. 27 year old Wathsaridu Karunarathna, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Sri Lanka argues that more young people in his country need to be trained to function efficiently in the modern workplace.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) says every morning 1 out of 3 workers wakes up to a job that has little to do with his or her degree, area of specialization or career plans.

In Sri Lanka, the situation is even more concerning as many young people who are waking up without jobs are migrating to the industrial and commercial zones looking for decent job opportunities. A considerable number of them are however unskilled. 

A study from the National Planning Department (NPD) of Sri Lanka indicates that every year 180,000 young people enter the labour market after completing their O-level and A-level exams in secondary school, but sadly about 152,000 or 84 percent of them join the labour market without receiving any training.

Many young people struggle to secure employment because they lack the skills and competencies for the jobs they seek. For those who get hired, securing a living wage may still be beyond their reach and they can become trapped in the low skills, low productivity and low wage cycle.

These young people may contend that their employers do not pay enough while placing them under tremendous pressure. On the flip side, employers may argue that their employees are lazy, uncommitted, and are only qualified on paper, but what both sides are missing is that young people have fallen into the skills gap.

The skills gap refers to the difference between the skills employers require to do a job and the skills employees have when they are hired.

Young people entering the fields of construction, tourism and hospitality, and information and communication technology in Sri Lanka are especially at risk of falling into the skills gap.

There is now growing awareness of this gap. Senior managers are now looking more closely at the quality and relevance of training provided to young people, the demand for soft skills and job oriented technical skills, as well as the high turnover rates in their organizations.

Employers in Sri Lanka know that when young people have the cognitive and job specific technical skills that are required, their organizations benefit from increased innovation, productivity and industrial competitiveness . They are therefore recruiting the best talent and letting go youths who do not possess competencies to perform their tasks effectively. This is however not a long-term solution to the skills gap in the country.

Greater emphasis must instead be placed on upgrading the skills of young people so that they can function in the modern workplace. Among the skills needed are computer technology, machine operations and other technical skills, and English Language skills. Cognitive skills such as analysis, problem solving, communication and behavioural skills are also needed. If Sri Lanka’s youth receive skills training in these areas, they will be empowered not just to find decent jobs but also to start their own enterprises, and contribute to the country’s development.

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Photo Credits: Pixabay

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About me: I’m from Welimada, Sri Lanka. I am a Civil Engineer who is passionate about uplifting the living standards of the average community. A former travel journalist, I believe that advocacy can increase the credibility of civil society organizations, strengthen and expand the democratic space by encouraging the participation of citizens in policy-making. That is what I strive for. In wanting to build a participatory dialogue I have engaged in freelance writing. A former rower and a karateka, I love volunteering and travelling.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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