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This issue relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • Decent work and economic growth

Future workforce

Average read time: 4 minutes

We’re helping young people develop the skills they need to find meaningful work.

Young people engaging in group activity

Young people are our future – our consumers, employees, partners, policymakers. And the more we can do to help them become productive and engaged members of their communities, the faster we can make sustainable living commonplace.

Times are tough for many young adults. Covid-19 has disrupted the studies of many and affected the jobs of many more. Even before the pandemic, people between 15 and 24 years old were three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, while 126 million young workers were living in poverty around the world (International Labour Organization, 2020). Many young people leave education ill-prepared for the world of work, and those who find work are more likely to be in precarious employment than other age groups.

So we’re increasingly working with like-minded partners and governments to create employment skills in people from 15 to 24 years old. To help them find and keep meaningful work. And to encourage them to take a purposeful approach to their future.

Our goal

Help equip 10 million young people with essential skills to prepare them for job opportunities by 2030. 

Acting for the young

We’re building on our successful youth employability programme in South Africa, where in just three years we helped almost 400,000 young people identify their purpose and develop skills to pursue it. Working with Microsoft and other partners, we’ve launched LevelUp, a youth employability platform which will help us reach a diverse group of young people around the world.

This is a one-stop shop where young people define their purpose and access accredited training, volunteering and work experience with Unilever and our partners. It helps them develop essential skills for making the most of job opportunities. We’re also growing our apprenticeship schemes around the world – working with our suppliers and distributors to help young people build vocational skills and find jobs.

A young apprentice smiling infront of Unilever products

Young apprentices leading the way in the UK

The scheme is gathering momentum and providing valuable lessons and models to use elsewhere. It’s particularly focused on enabling under-represented and disadvantaged young people to develop critical skills for work. Not only does this give young people a leg up into employment, it helps us fill key skills gaps and build the diversity of thought and experience across our business.

We’re moving towards our commitment in a variety of other ways. By inspiring young people to engage with our shared global challenges using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as a framework. By mobilising them to take action on the things they care about through our Take Action hub . By equipping them with 21st-century skills: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. And by advocating for a different approach in the secondary education system so that young people leave school better prepared for work.

Some of our brands have been working for young people for years. Take Sunsilk’s Explore More! education programme in Thailand and Pakistan, in partnership with NGO Girl Rising. This gives girls in school the skills to identify their strengths, re-imagine their goals, and take steps towards them. By the end of 2020, the programme had reached 50,000 young people. And I’m Wall’s, our global ice cream vendor programme gives training, equipment, products and licensing to thousands of long-term unemployed people, including young people. So far, the programme has created 45,000 jobs in 20 countries.

Heroes for change in Kenya

close up of a jacket that has the slogan 'selling with purpose' and a number of Unilever brand logos beneath it

50,000 graduates enter the Kenyan jobs market each year, and yet one out of every six young people in the country is unemployed. So one goal of our Heroes for Change programme is to inspire and empower young people by helping them find and prepare for jobs through volunteering.

Partnering with universities and NGOs, the programme uses student volunteers to improve communities’ health and wellbeing. The young people teach things like the importance of personal hygiene and nutrition in line with the purpose-led activities of Unilever brands such as Lifebuoy and Pepsodent. This gives them hands-on learning as well as coaching and online tutorials, allows them to make a positive social impact in their communities, and provides a route into internships at Unilever and our partners in Kenya.

Our Heroes for Change programme aims to tackle the issue of youth employability in Kenya. We not only give our student volunteers the chance to impact their society, but also equip them with important skills to make them more employable and better prepared as they embark on their career journey.

Justin Apsey, CEO Unilever East Africa