I had the pleasure of speaking at the International Youth Foundation’s Youth Leadership and Livelihoods conference in Washington, DC, today. I participated on a panel entitled “The Global Challenge – and Opportunity – of Youth Employment” with colleagues from public, private and civil sector organizations. The panel could not have been more appropriately named. As the global economy continues to struggle and as demographic, political, environmental and other factors continue to increase pressure on our most precious resource – youth – it is sometimes hard to be optimistic. But working in partnership we can open up many opportunities for our young people despite these daunting obstacles.

In a long week of many meetings and events, this was a highlight. Looking out at the audience of several hundred people – including representatives of local IYF network members, youth leaders, international donors, and foundations, I was reminded of the amazing commitment to youth empowerment that exists around the world.

Our global commitment to youth education and entrepreneurship is part of our Microsoft Unlimited Potential initiative, which invests in programs, products, and partnerships to help catalyze education, innovation and economic opportunity. We also train people in jobs skills that are needed inside and outside the technology sector.

Our partnership with IYF draws on a number of our Unlimited Potential programs, including our Digital Literacy curricula and software donations programs to support IYF’s youth employability initiatives such as entra21 in Latin America and the Youth Empowerment Program in sub-Saharan Africa.

Along with literacy and numeracy, basic technology skills are increasingly essential in every sector of the economy. For example, a recent IDC survey in Europe showed that within 5 years, 90% of all jobs will involve using basic technology, and up to a quarter will involve advanced technology. And in many developing countries, basic technology access and skillscan enable a trajectory into the workplace and continuing education.

 

Last week we released our 2010 Citizenship report which provides insight into our approach and commitment to addressing economic and social issues and reports on our progress across the company. I want to draw your attention to picture on the cover of our report this year. The girls in this picture all participate in the Global Give Back Circle - a program to give young women in Africa an opportunity to safely complete high school and continue their educations or enter the workforce. It is the promise of youth, especially young girls and women that makes me especially proud to be part of our collective efforts to changes lives and create opportunities.

I encourage you to join the dialogue at http://www.iyflive.net/

 

Pamela Passman is corporate vice president of global corporate affairs at Microsoft.

Pamela S. Passman