The Role of Youth Socio-Economic Empowerment in Achieving Global Resilience in the Covid-19 Era

Entrepreneurship Sep 21, 2021

Last year, I had that unique experience of graduating on Zoom. After four years of pursuing a degree that literally had zero online content - at UCL we study a math degree strictly on whiteboards and chalkboards - the systems of teaching and examination that have happened for hundreds of years simply unhinged in a single day. And as the months passed, I witnessed the challenge of my peers around me as the number of graduate roles were drastically reduced and hiring freezes were implemented in smaller companies. But as I was already pursuant of an entrepreneurial pathway, this changing landscape didn't affect me hugely.

In fact, my entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 16 when ZNotes was first launched although I probably wouldn't have referred to it so. I continued to develop this platform through my school then university years for it to become an award-winning social-impact startup that has reached over 3 million students globally in an effort to end educational inequality and achieving SDG4. But the reason to share my story is to tell you about hundreds of students around the world who joined this movement as contributors and team members. Before even leaving school, the ZNotes team was organising themselves remotely and leveraging industry-standard frameworks to innovate, organise and most importantly, making a global impact. As we follow the journeys of some of the past ZNotes interns, we see them entering top universities on scholarships, setting up their own startups and leapfrogging their path in the corporate world.

This brings me back to the theme of today's dialogue, youth socio-economic empowerment. Covid-19 has no doubt been a monumental economical challenge but the change in the world of work was always happening: we head away from the trajectory where a degree in a certain discipline can lead to a pensioned job you keep till the retirement age of 55. That is no longer how the world works. In some of the most competitive jobs, university degrees are simply signals to show your employer that you have the resilience and aptitude to complete such an ordeal. In fact, recently we've seen industry leaders like Google and Microsoft simply ignore or not require a university degree to apply for their roles. The future of work requires more creative problem solving, adaptation and continuous learning to succeed.

As a relentless optimist, which is an essential skill for entrepreneurs, I am sure that even after such a shock, we will enter natural economic recovery as the world has done in every kind of global challenge. But the way we work and what do in work is set to change drastically - Covid-19 has just accelerated this. Now more than ever, those very human qualities of creativity, collaboration and problem-solving are absolutely key for roles of the future. For the youth to be socio-economically resilient not just in a Covid-19 era but in the future too, we are tasked not only to be honing these future skills but to also be creators of economic opportunities.

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Zubair Junjunia

Building ZNotes from age 16, outspoken promoter of UN SDG4 as One Young World & STEM ambassador, maths graduate from UCL. Staying sane by running, open-water swimming and figure & inline skating.

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