Northern Ireland, this week, released shocking data on youth unemployment. According to the figures published by The Prince's Trust youth unemployment in NI costs up to £4.5m a week. Citing research by the London School of Economics, the new figures also established that when lost productivity is included, each job seeker costs up to £16,000 a year.

As per the research, long-term unemployment among 16 to 24 year olds had increased more than seven-fold since before the recession and the number of people in the same age group on Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) for 12 months or more, recently reached a 12-year high.

Northern Ireland is not the only country faced with this problem. Youth employment is growing into a global menace with frightening implications.  According to the ILO Global Employment Trends for Youth 2010 Report, global youth unemployment has reached its highest level on record -- 81 million. Whats more, It threatens to continue to rise.

Commenting on the NI figures, RBS economist Fionnuala Earley asserted that as the UK attempts to clear record levels of national debt, it cannot afford to ignore the growing costs of youth unemployment.

This is not just a welfare burden - lost productivity and wasted potential directly affect the rate of economic growth in the UK, she said.

Youngsters seem to have been caught in a vicious circle as they fail to secure jobs due to the world-wide economic uncertainty while youth unemployment also contributes to hindering the economic recovery.

Tackling this issue, therefore, becomes prime importance in the ongoing battle of the countries to crawl back on top financially.

A multifaceted approach to tackling high levels of global youth unemployment is essential to preventing a 'lost generation' of talent which will harm economic growth and exacerbate social problems, said David Arkless, President of Corporate and Government Affairs, Manpower Inc.

Fighting this labour imbalance would require several steps. For one, bridging the gap between the skills employers are looking for and what students are actually being equipped with by educational programs could make a massive difference at the grass root level.

Another factor causing high levels of youth unemployment is the demographic gap between supply and demand in the labor market of many countries. The number of young workers entering the labor market is much lower than the number of older workers exiting the labor market.

Consequently, the untapped youth labor pool is holding back the recovery. For instance, even though Germany economy is relatively strong, the Federal Labor Agency says skill mismatches are obstructing the growth. In Europe, while 2.5 million jobs are awaiting to be filled, unemployment still hovers at a high rate of about 10 percent.

Youth with little hope for the future may see no alternative to criminal activities, but with shifting demographics and working populations getting older, the world simply cannot afford for the next generation to be left on the sidelines of work as we face a worsening talent mismatch, Arkless added.

According to a recent talent shortage survey conducted by Manpower, skilled trades are the hardest positions to fill globally. Young people are increasingly shying away from skilled trades work but the stakeholders who rely on skilled labor need to emphasize the appeal of the work. 

An August 2010 Manpower paper titled 'Strategic Migration-A Short-term Solution to the Skilled Trades Shortage' argued that one solution to this skills mismatch was to promote positive attitudes toward skilled trades work among the young as viable career options to pursuing university degrees.

The velocity of change in the world of work means it is increasingly difficult to predict where the demand for skills will be in the future, so young people have to keep pace with change by continually upskilling; developing soft skills such as intellectual curiosity, empathy and strong communication skills; embracing lifelong learning and taking a pro-active approach to their own career development.

It is imperative we get this right in order to ease the global talent mismatch and create effective solutions to youth unemployment, underscored Arkless.