As government leaders from around the world gather in New York City this month for the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, I have been reflecting on the role of the private sector in helping to solve the world’s toughest social challenges. If the U.N. is to meet its Sustainable Development Goals, a 17-point plan to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all,” then business must take a lead role.
At Deloitte, we take our role as global citizens seriously. While we support all 17 of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, we’re focusing on two in particular: #4 Quality Education and #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth.
As the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, unfolds, we are preparing organizations and their people to be ready for the acceleration of technology and digitization.. Deloitte’s work developing leading-edge business solutions, bringing fresh perspectives to clients, and training the next generation of business leaders is an important step in making the promise of 4IR a reality.
But it is not enough. From Memphis to Mumbai, too many are already being left behind. Worldwide, more than 260 million children and youth are out of school; 750 million adults are unable to read and write; 200 million people are unemployed; and two billion jobs are expected to disappear to automation.
This is why Deloitte launched WorldClass—a global initiative that aims to empower 50 million people by 2030—by giving them the skills they need to find meaningful work in the new economy. WorldClass isn’t just about charity or simply writing a check. It’s about committing our most valued asset—our more than 250,000 Deloitte professionals around the globe—to helping those left behind develop the skills required for new opportunities. It’s about collaborating with local schools, businesses, governments and NGOs to bridge the gap between the skills people have and the skills employers need. It’s about connecting what is learned in the classroom to what is done at work, and creating pathways for individuals of all ages to fulfill their aspirations.
Deloitte already has an extensive track record developing and deploying education, skills and learning initiatives that foster individual economic progress. Our WorldClass programs range from a commitment in the UK to help one million people advance personally and professionally to policies that support the recruitment of students from low socio-economic backgrounds to cradle-to-college support for students in India.
Deloitte Middle East’s Digital Youth Program helps bridge the digital divide. Over 400 Deloitte professionals have volunteered in the digital-training process and positively impacted more than 4,000 children. Deloitte South Africa is working with nonprofits to bring a solar-powered “Digitruck” that enables online learning in underserved areas that lack computers and Internet access, and where youth unemployment tops 80%. And, Deloitte U.S. launched RightStep, a program designed to improve college readiness for 500,000 students over the next three years by mobilizing 10,000 U.S. professionals as volunteers.
Technology has allowed us to connect the far reaches of the globe and it’s enabled businesses to flourish. But if that technology cannot be harnessed to connect all people to high-quality education and jobs, then everyone will feel the repercussions. Greater income inequality, increased unemployment, growing dependence on government, and more mass migrations are a few of the most pressing problems that failing to train the next generation of workers for the digitally driven economy will bring.
We are just getting started, but we aim to make a real difference. As I’ve said before, business can’t succeed if society fails. And as I’ve learned through life— whether we pursue a career in education, the sciences, finance, business or government—in the end we are only as good as the work we do.