Adolescents and Young people

Empowering young people to thrive in tomorrow’s world

A group of young boys and girls working on project that won the global Generation Unlimited youth challenge
UNICEF/2019/Georgiev

The challenge

Adolescents make up approximately twelve per cent of the country’s roughly 2 million population. That’s about 247,000 young people aged 10 to 19.  When you add young people under 24 years old, that’s a lot of potential and creative energy. With education, skills and empowerment, these girls and boys can help transform economies and societies.

But a fast-changing global economy is demanding increasingly specialized and transferable skills and education systems are struggling to keep up with the pace of change. Technological developments have created new challenges, but also opportunities, for education systems to prepare adolescents and young people for the labour market and life.

It’s no longer enough to simply get them through schooling. As they grow, adolescent girls and boys need an education with meaningful learning outcomes, broader skills, values and experiences to help them develop a growth mindset and skills for collaboration, employability and citizenship.

If adolescents and young people don’t receive the training and the skills needed, they may struggle to keep up with the changing demands of the jobs of tomorrow.

With the country ranked fifth in the world by youth unemployment (47.2%) - more than double the rate of overall unemployment (22.3%) - North Macedonia is already experiencing a tremendous loss of potential and creative energy. Moreover, recent research shows a high rate of underemployment (57.1%) – in other words, many of the young people lucky enough to be employed, work less hours than they want, hold insecure jobs, are overqualified, underpaid, hold temporary positions or are without a written contract – indicating a mismatch in skills and in supply/demand on the labour market.

There are many reasons for this but being poorly served by the education system is a major factor. North Macedonia is one of the lowest performing countries in terms of learning outcomes as measured by the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015.  It is ranked second last of all participating countries and more than half of students lack basic competencies. However, the bigger concern is that performance has been deteriorating while improving in other countries in the region. 

Almost all - ninety-four per cent - of young people 15 to 24 years of age use the internet every day. But aside from traditional participatory methods, young people still find themselves excluded from the development processes designed to improve their lives.

With meaningful education, skills and empowerment, these young people will help transform the country.

From political and economic, to cultural and sport life, young people need more opportunities to actively participate in the societal developments. Currently, there are limited opportunities for them to engage with their bright ideas to solve some of the challenges that impact them the most.

The solution

UNICEF is supporting North Macedonia by introducing programmes that build the confidence and capacities of creative and energetic adolescents and youth; giving them opportunities to acquire a broader set of valuable transferable skills and empowering them to be young leaders driving change in their communities.

Through UPSHIFT we combine social innovation workshops, with mentorship, materials and seed funding to equip young people with transferable skills like problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and leadership. The programme combines some of the leading approaches to youth and adolescent development with “human centred design” to empower youth and adolescents to become social innovators and entrepreneurs. It empowers them to identify challenges in their communities and create solutions to address them.  The proven methodologies are transferable and can be used in everyday classrooms, to ignite creativity and entrepreneurship skills. Our long-term goal is to support the Ministry of Education and Science and the Bureau for Development of Education to introduce UPSHIFT methodology in regular education system to benefit every student in the country.

We are also creating opportunities for young people from North Macedonia to be part the Generation Unlimited initiative – a global partnership to get every young person into school, learning, training or employment by 2030. Through innovation challenges, we are finding a new way of delivering with and for young people – co-creating - bringing together young people and partners to help promising solutions go to scale.