Values and Skills for Life - Education Serving Young People

I found myself in Lima, Peru on 15 July 2022, World Youth Skills Day, celebrating our uncle’s 74th birthday with my husband’s family in a neighbourhood in which roadside car repair shops service and save well-used cars from the scrap heap and keep them running. Our uncle and his siblings made their way in the world without much formal schooling beyond secondary school. He and his brothers moved in their teens from their home in the highlands to the big city where they were taken on as apprentice mechanics and drivers. They laboured, married, built their homes from the ground up and raised their families, helping each other and the extended family out through the hard times and celebrating the good ones together.

Roadside car repairs in Lima, Peru

Roadside repairs, Lima, Peru. Photo credit: A. López Howe

In the UK my maternal grandfather delivered coal to begin with, ran his own taxi service, grew it then sold up to start a flourishing coach company with my uncles working as mechanics and drivers and my grandmother and aunties taking the orders and keeping the books. I grew up with regular visits accompanied by the smell of the oil-imbued forecourt and the rumble of well-tuned and maintained engines rumbling into life ready for another run from my grandparents’ home. I grew to appreciate their entrepreneurship, hard work over long hours and the practised handling of the long vehicles in tight spaces as the coaches were brought in and guided out.

My husband’s uncles and my own uncles learnt on the job in large part, making their living and enabling their children, our generation, and their grandchildren, to go to school, to study longer and to choose a field of study, giving the privilege of choice, for more education gives just that, choice.

Times have changed and when once one career choice would have been enough for a lifetime it is now necessary to train and retrain, to be mobile and flexible. As the demands of the labour market shift rapidly so new skills are needed.

Hundreds of thousands of students in the northern hemisphere have left high school this month and are taking their first steps into adulthood, hopefully with some prospects in view. According to the UN’s World Youth Report, 15.5 per cent of the world’s population, some 1.2 billion people, are aged between 15 and 24 years. Of those, around 43 per cent are participating in the labour force, 35 per cent are in education and training and just over 22 per cent are not in education, employment or training. “This means that more than 1 in 5 youth are not acquiring livelihood skills through education or work. Young people who are not in education, employment or training are more likely to experience social and economic exclusion; the impact varies, depending on the circumstances, but is usually long-term and can affect not only individuals but an entire generation”.[1]

One in 5 youth are being left behind; one in 5 young people need our, your, my, help, to get a start, to open doors, to give the opportunity, to be able to study, to be trained, to be fully rather than underemployed in work that is satisfying, secure and dignified with fair pay and acceptable conditions. Although a decent job is not a requirement for an ethical life, gainful employment certainly helps and is beneficial for all concerned.

Education and the attainment of skills are lifelong pursuits starting at home, continuing in formal and in informal schooling and settings and eventually at work. Over the course of our lifetimes, we grow and develop, ideally on all planes, physically, intellectually, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and socially. The foundations are laid in our youth, all being well, and in the decades that follow, we may have or create ourselves the spaces to hone and practise our skills, to extend and deepen our knowledge and experience, and to continue to learn new skills, growing and adapting as our lives unfold. We do not of course learn in a vacuum; education and skills development are not undertaken for their own sake alone, enjoyable as that may be, but are expected to be put to use for our benefit and for that of our families, communities and of society as a whole.

While the skills and the expertise needed to be able to do our work well may change, there are some skills that are constant. These include the key skills related to ethics, to developing our critical and values-based thinking and decision-making. There are the domains of ethics to do with our particular fields or disciplines or environment and there is our work/life ethic, bringing values such as integrity, responsibility, reliability, productivity, discipline and respect to our endeavours and to those we work/live with. courses are carefully designed to support the development and consolidation of these ethics-related skills with the basic track courses available to take for free. Alumni are of all ages, young and old. The invitation is there to you and to the young people around you to be empowered, by signing up for the classes starting in September and October, using the Library,  reading Publications online and attending Events, all free of charge.

Lucy Howe López 
Deputy Executive Director



[1] United Nations World Youth Report: Youth Social Entrepreneurship and the 2030 Agenda, 2020, 2020-World-Youth-Report-FULL-FINAL.pdf (, p.43

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