Though young adults have a higher recovery rate from COVID-19 than other age groups, the pandemic's impact on global youth’s socioeconomic success is here to stay. But new innovations and the pivoting of operations are not just a corporate response; youth are also responding to this crisis with significant contributions.
Right now, more than 90 percent of students worldwide are experiencing loss of in-class learning as a repercussion of the virus. Lost and prolonged months of education affects income earnings, the readiness to enter the workforce or bounce back up from layoffs and school dropout rates.
As youth tend to have less in savings and own fewer investments, financial hardships are harder to overcome. U.S. students from grade K-12 are estimated to lose $61,000 to $82,000 in their lifetime earnings as a result of COVID-19 school closures. This loss only widens the existing growing socio economic gap between white versus Black and Hispanic students in the U.S.
Not only will younger generations experience financial loss, but competing with experienced professionals in competitive fields will be disheartening. At first glance, these statistics may seem daunting to overcome, but agile corporate and organizational action can arm youth to face these challenges. And they already are.
In March, 24-year-old Jorge Richardson founded a search engine, TogetherCard, to support local businesses and entrepreneurs. Through this U.S. based platform, users can support local businesses by purchasing gift cards. Entrepreneurship is one answer for some youth, pivoting is another. Digital platform SEPAK sells Cambodian-produced products for ethical prices and in response to COVID-19, production was pivoted towards creating handmade masks. SEPAK donates one mask to a local charity when a customer purchase 10. Similarly, the founder of Gaber Garment, Jennet Lemma, responded to COVID-19 by pivoting operations of her garment manufacturing social enterprise to manufacture masks and distribute them locally.
These entrepreneurs prove that plenty of youth are acting with the future in mind. But in the current atmosphere where budgets are tight, and layoffs are likely, long-term strategies are needed to deal with this economic turbulence. Investing in youth-focused education, mental health and customer relations builds a foundation for young adults to contribute to society continuously and drive action.
During this month, International Youth Day, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s "My COVID-19 Story" campaign highlighted how youth are tackling social, mental and financial challenges by starting YouTube cooking channels, live streaming performances, creating and delivering personal protection equipment, and helping deliver groceries to elders.
These young adults are filling learning gaps through tools for which they are best known. In 2015, Divya Gokulnath, the co-founder of the educational technology platform, Byju’s, was ahead in the digital arena by investing in online educational technology. After exceeding demand for his service, Raveendran expanded Byju’s with a subscription-based service that provides school curriculum through video. Shortly after COVID-19, Byju’s was available to students at no cost, which in return boosted users and subscription rates.
They may not be an immediate win-win for some businesses, but quick and cognizant responses and investments towards tackling long-term problems are inevitably beneficial. Entering the workforce is competitive now, so to tackle gaps in skills and prevent job losses, David Blake launched Learn In to work with employers to train their employees to obtain skills needed for the future as opposed to replacing or laying them off.
Large corporations are acting, too. For example, Target is investing in its employees through increasing wages, childcare and paid leave; American Express has said it is refraining from COVID-19 related layoffs as it pays salaries and provides coverage to employees affected by the virus, and Home Depot has provided its associates with additional paid time off.
Such engagement helps young professionals and students, especially those living in low-income households or with disabilities participate and create innovative resources to tackle COVID-19 and its prevention itself. Disadvantaged younger generations in rural or developing countries face problems of access to educational technologies such as the Internet, stable employment and personalized learning.
To that end, CEO and founder Timothy Yu, who founded the on-demand education app Snapask, saw an opportunity to bridge this gap. During COVID-19 closures, Yu collaborated with Singapore officials to provide free learning services and news to students. Through various technology packages, students have access to elementary and college level resources and tutors.
Corporate investment and youth engagement in education, employee well-being and public health are the building blocks of preparing better for COVID-19’s consequences. By going back to basics and ensuring everyone is helped with access to internet, health resources and financial support; we can quickly move towards a strong economic recovery.
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