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This issue relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • Decent work and economic growth

Future workforce

Average read time: 5 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. But 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 working more and more 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. It’s one of the goals we’ve set in our Unilever Compass.

Our future of work 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, Pearson and LinkedIn, we’ve launched LevelUp, a youth employability platform which will help us reach a diverse group of young people. It’s 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. In 2021, we also piloted a 10-day LevelUp accelerator programme to help young people access digital learning, mentoring and work experience.

We’re also launching and expanding other training and apprenticeship schemes around the world. In Bangladesh, our Frontliners Academy offers young people accredited training to become distributor sales reps and then introduces them to potential employers.

In Brazil, our Virtual Youth Development Centre in collaboration with Enactus is aiming to skill up 1 million young people over the next five years. And in Kenya, in collaboration with social venture network Shujaaz Inc, Unilever Kenya will launch a multi-platform campaign to train and recruit at least 10,000 young people into the retail business with the aim of helping them become profitable and digitally-enabled retailers.

In the UK, our apprenticeship scheme is providing valuable learning as we expand similar programmes in other countries around the world.

Young apprentices leading the way in the UK

Our apprenticeship 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 also helps us fill key skills gaps and build the diversity of thought and experience across our business.

A young apprentice smiling infront of Unilever products

Inspiring action

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 like critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. And by advocating 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. Sunsilk and Wall’s are good examples of how we’ve been building the skills people need to get into work.

Illustration of two girls with flowing hair


Sunsilk’s Explore More! education programme runs in partnership with NGO Girl Rising in six countries.

It gives girls in school the skills to identify their strengths, re-imagine their goals and take steps towards them. And in partnership with Udemy, Sunsilk is providing thousands of free online courses too.

By the end of 2021, Explore More! had reached more than 56,000 young people.

Illustration of an ice cream vendor selling ice cream from his bicycle


I’m Wall’s, our global ice cream vendor programme, gives training, equipment, products and licensing to thousands of long-term unemployed people, aiming to melt unemployment barriers for 100,000 young people.

In 2021, this included a four-week work experience programme for 100 young people in the UK.

So far, the programme has created 45,000 jobs in 20 countries.

Volunteers for change

Volunteering opens up new opportunities, providing new skills and valuable experience as a route into work. That’s the thinking behind our Heroes for Change initiative in Kenya.

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, nutrition and recycling 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 creates a route into internships at Unilever and our partners in Kenya.