Skilling 'youth on the move' to help power the green economy

This page in:
Simon Geraldson, 17 years old, Cité Soleil outside Port-au-Prince (Haiti). Simon Geraldson, 17 years old, Cité Soleil outside Port-au-Prince (Haiti). Copyright : UNICEF/UN0364558/Casares

‘Green transitions’—shifts in economies towards more sustainable practices that preserve, restore, and protect the environment—have the potential to create 8.4 million jobs for young people by 2030. But ‘youth on the move’ are often left out of policies and programming aimed to support young people’s participation in the green economy. Overlooking this group perpetuates their marginalization and ignores the diverse perspectives and innovative ideas they bring to green economic transitions, leaving a large pool of talent untapped.

‘Youth on the move’ are young people between the ages of 15 to 24, who leave their homes to find better opportunities elsewhere, sometimes for economic reasons and sometimes involuntarily due to climate disasters or regional conflicts. This diverse group can include migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, and asylum seekers. In 2022 alone, nearly 6.5 million young people between the ages of 12 and 17 were forcibly displaced and it is anticipated that the climate crisis will only lead this population to grow.

Increasing employability and access to opportunities

The World Bank supports governments to meaningfully include ‘youth on the move’ by increasing their employability and access to skilling and entrepreneurship opportunities. For example, in Iraq, the Youth Inclusion through Cultural and Creative Industries project aims to increase the employability of internally displaced youth through the provision of a breadth of skills development opportunities in the cultural and creative sector. Increasingly, the World Bank and UNICEF are collaborating to leverage new opportunities in the green economy, to support improved access to green skilling for marginalized youth in low- and middle-income countries.

The recently published UNICEF report Skills for a Green Transition: Solutions for 'youth on the move' outlines three solutions for governments to start including ‘youth on the move’ in green transitions, wherever they may land. 

Solution 1: Create Opportunities for 'youth on the move' to Learn Green Skills 

'Youth on the move' need a wide range of skills to thrive in their new communities and promote environmental sustainability in their work and life. Among these are a breadth of green skills, which include the knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop, and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society.


While many successful skilling programs for youth exist, they often lack a ‘green’ focus and leave out ‘youth on the move’. By ‘greening’ these programs to include a focus on environmental issues, target a breadth of green skills, and address the issue of overlooking ‘youth on the move’, we can better engage 'youth on the move' to participate in green transitions. Governments play a crucial role in this solution by removing barriers—such as gender discrimination, language of instruction, and lack of legal status—that hinder 'youth on the move' from participating in green skilling programs.

For example, the Engaging Youth as Global Citizens in Vietnam programme is dedicated to empowering Vietnamese youth to address local climate challenges. It develops a breadth of green skills for young people, from climate-smart agriculture to leadership, networking and global citizenship and includes scholarships supporting youth in conducting scientific research on local environmental impacts. To date, the programme has directly impacted 13,902 Vietnamese youth.

Solution 2: Promote access to green work opportunities for 'youth on the move'

'Youth on the move' face unique challenges in accessing green work opportunities. This can include their degrees or certifications going unrecognized, inadequate social protections, absence of social networks, legal constraints, restricted right to work, and insufficient post-training support.

Governments must make career pathways to green jobs more accessible and to create new pathways where they don’t exist. Programs that offer support to ‘youth on the move’ to transition to the green economy include apprenticeships, internships, on-the-job training, workforce readiness training, and specialized opportunities that build specific occupational skills.

For example, GrEEn (Boosting Green Employment and Enterprise Opportunities in Ghana) provides youth, women, and migrants with skill development opportunities, mentoring opportunities on employment and enterprise development, financial support, start-up investment, and cash-for-work opportunities in Ghana’s Ahsanti and western regions. To date, GrEEn has helped micro, small, and medium enterprises create 1,500 green jobs for youth, women, and migrants, and has helped 3,500 youth, women, and migrants develop self-employment opportunities.

Solution 3: Foster access to self-employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for 'youth on the move' in green sectors.

Starting a business is challenging, and for 'youth on the move' it can be even more difficult to access the necessary skills, capital, and tools. They also face extra hurdles in reaching markets, building social networks, and acquiring the socio-political know-how that is critical for success.

Governments need to provide more holistic support to ‘youth on the move’ to start their green enterprises, such as training, incubation, and financial assistance. Governments can also help connect ‘youth on the move’ with market-based services and established green professionals who could act as mentors. Combining these supports can lead to impressive results for young entrepreneurs, in some cases as much as a 933% increase in savings.

For example, Integrated UPSHIFT (I-UPSHIFT) helps young entrepreneurs overcome hurdles by providing comprehensive skills training, mentorship, and seed funding for youth in refugee hosting districts in Uganda. To date, i-UPSHIFT has upskilled more than 1,700 adolescents and youth.

Participating in and benefitting from the ‘green transition’

Governments around the world—especially those in countries that host a high number of ‘youth on the move’—must recognize this population’s potential. Governments must adapt existing programs and develop new ones that address the unique challenges faced by ‘youth on the move’ and provide tailored support. Only then can we ensure that 'youth on the move' not only participate in but also benefit from the transition to a greener future.


To receive weekly articles, sign-up here

Diego Ambasz

Senior Education Specialist

Ingrid Sanchez Tapia

UNICEF’s global lead for climate and education

Christina Kwauk

Research Director of Unbounded Associates, Co-Founder of the Unbounded Alliance, and Founder of Kwauk & Associates

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000