World Youth Skills Day: celebrating a new generation of changemakers

14 JULY 2023

World Youth Skills Day: celebrating a new generation of changemakers

The United Nations officially declared July15 as World Youth Skills Day in 2014, celebrating the need to help young people thrive in their future career pathways.

In the last near-decade since its inception, a lot has changed in the employment landscape, particularly for youth.

Lecturer in History, Politics and Sociology Dr Oliver Villar in the Charles Sturt University School of Social Work and Arts, argues we need to place greater urgency on supporting the next generation of leaders and changemakers.

At a time when the world is oblivious to the growing tensions, problems and rivalries between the major powers in places like Ukraine and Taiwan, young people’s involvement in politics is vital.

Be it through active participation in social movements or grassroots campaigns, having a voice in the realm of policymaking and governance is crucial, because these not only shape the nation, but the future of young people where they hope to live, work and socialise.

Historically, it has always been young people who have stood up against war and social injustice.

The power of young people’s voices

Today, multiple Youth Parliaments and other similar initiatives have been designed to give young people a voice, and one which is taken more seriously.

In the political space, the debate on lowering the voting age to 16 in Australia continues to circulate, with some saying individuals are not mature enough to make the tough decisions at that age, while others believe they deserve a say.

Sociologically, it has been shown that we are all products of our own environment and social institutions. Family, religion, media, mainstream political parties, traditions and so on shape our ongoing socialisation process.

While someone who is 16 is very likely to parrot what their parents or major influencers believe (rightly or wrongly), how different is this political behaviour to the way the vast majority of adults vote? Do most adults even vote in their own interest?

People who are 16 are more likely to take a long-term, less self-serving view when voting, as they rarely have a (perceived) economic self-interest in the status quo, as opposed to the immediate (or self-serving interest) of adults that may not align with the public interest.

Take for instance the housing debate. Young people are more likely to have compassion, an appreciation of history, and an interest in finding long-term solutions over the ‘market solutions’ that have hijacked social and economic policies since the 1980s which were designed to increase property prices.

We are all born with collectivist principles of solidarity at a young age, but once we join society these principles are usually abandoned for self-interest and ‘conservative’ worldviews, which, foolishly, tend to lose sight of what is important to society or simply leave problems unresolved or internalised.

As the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau put it, ‘Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains’.

The future starts today

According to the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, it is now 90 seconds to midnight. Amid nuclear war, climate warnings and a dangerous global media landscape where nations and companies compete for ‘truths’ through cyberwarfare, disinformation and fake news - this is the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been.

At the root of this ‘impending doom’ are our decisions about how to move forward, and those who will be making these decisions – and living in the resulting world, should the clock not strike midnight - are young people.

In other words, what we do today and how we treat the planet will have severe repercussions for the future.

Whether we want a more sustainable world that is free from conflict and poverty, career pathways that serve the common good over corporate profits, or better choices and freedoms which encourage debate and cooperation and not division and predatory practices, young people have the power to change the world, as they have always done.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Oliver Villar, contact Jessica McLaughlin at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0430 510 538 or via

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