Celebrating World Youth Skills Day with DMF Youth – An Organization Making an Impact with Life-Skills Training
A staggering 40% of young people are unemployed globally, despite making up 25% of the working-age population. The lack of relevant skills, in addition to a lack of jobs, is a significant factor causing this unemployment. World Youth Skills Day, celebrated every year on the 15th of July, serves the purpose of raising awareness about the importance of skill development. Young individuals, employers, and trainers all come together to celebrate this day with events focusing on raising awareness about the issue.
We had a conversation with Lindi Duesenberg, Executive Director, DMF Youth. The organization offers free, high-quality after-school and summer programs to underserved youth in New York City. In their programs, youth are taught Social Emotional Emotional (SEL) and life-skills development directly into the curriculum, which helps them develop grit, resilience, and a growth mindset.
What is the purpose of celebrating World Youth Skills Day, in your opinion?
Lindi Duesenberg: World Youth Skills Day serves as an excellent opportunity to amplify the importance of life skill development and teach the youth the strategies and tools that they need to thrive. The day also serves the purpose of shining the spotlight on organizations that are doing the work to make sure children have all of the tools needed to thrive, not just academics.
How is DMF Youth helping the youth gain skills?
Lindi Duesenberg: We partner with schools and homeless shelters in New York City to provide after-school and summer programs for the youth. Our objective is to provide steadfast wraparound support. Through our programs, we’re teaching them things like how to deal with emotions, how to get up when you face a challenge, building their growth mindset, etc. We try to implement the idea that even if you can’t do something right away, hard work, determination, and effort, can get you where you want to be. We aim to nurture the whole child and provide that missing piece that often gets neglected in the traditional school day.
Additionally, we also partner with other nonprofits to supplement their summer camps. The idea is to add value to these camps with our social-emotional learning component. We primarily focus on dance and arts education as well. We can’t do engineering and math tutoring. But if we partner with organizations that are more tailored explicitly towards academic subjects or a sport or skills in general, we can supplement our curriculum.
How has the pandemic affected skills development?
Lindi Duesenberg: When we started our in-person operations again in the fall of 2021, we noticed most of our students were nearly two years behind academically, socially, and emotionally. The kids in our after-school sessions were mostly exhausted from the day. They weren’t used to being in a structured environment for eight hours and coming for our sessions. They also didn’t know how to deal with challenges or conflicts with friends. Their social skills and ability to make friends had even declined. So life skills became much more important than ever because kids missed out on that socialization and two years of development, not just academically but across all parts of their lives.
We must ensure that they feel competent as they continue to grow and learn. Many of our kids were overwhelmed with what it meant to be in school. That’s one of our goals at present to make sure we’re teaching the tools that these kids need to level up. Something we try to teach them is that you made it through a pandemic; you can make it through anything. We use that as a tool to help teach some of the other skills.
How can we ensure to spread the word about this cause?
Lindi Duesenberg: The first step is educating people on what life skills and personal development skills are. These skills are often called soft skills. Several studies have shown that these skills are important not only for getting jobs but also for succeeding in those roles and having a successful career.
Unfortunately, there’s so much to be taught in the school day, academically, that skills development takes a back seat. So the best way to go about it right now is to develop partnerships with organizations like ours. We can supplement these important life skills development with after-school and summer programs. And eventually, hopefully, these things will be more integrated into daily education.
World Youth Skills Day is an event that inspires every young individual to discover their potential and realize their dreams. We support this cause by highlighting the organizations working tirelessly to provide opportunities to the youth.