“If I could boil it down to one, it would be this: How do we provide opportunities for our young people so that they can build the skills and knowledge they need to drive our future – and to address the major challenges of the 21st century?”Tara Sonenshine,Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs,who spoke at the International Community College Conference,Ministry of Human Resource Development,New Delhi today spoke on the same issue.She said:“As you know, the so-called “youth bulge” is growing in very critical areas of the world. There are 600 million people under the age of 25 in India alone. What a ripe educational gold mine of young minds.How do we give them access to an education that will get them jobs? How do we find the resources for such an undertaking? And how do we scale up our solutions to match that population?

These are questions that India has courageously committed to embrace. And we are committed to working with you. How we work together, share ideas and resources, and how we open educational avenues for young people – all of that will be educational for us all.

All over the world, government, educational, and private sector leaders are grappling with these challenges – from London to Wellington; from Toronto to Berlin and Canberra; and especially among the growing youth communities across the Middle East, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa.

So we are here to learn as much from you – India – as share our own ideas. We do not claim to have all the answers. But we know that if we create an infrastructure that matches young people’s aspirations with the requirements of the private sector, we can make a promising start.

I the United States, we have seen how that promising start began with community colleges. We found this out in the 1930s – when our country was reeling under the worst depression in our history. We knew we needed to build a pipeline between young people out of work and companies who needed skilled workers. It was a simple equation of need and necessity, of supply and demand.

Cut to the year 2013. Today, we have more than 1100 community colleges, and they are educating almost half of our undergraduates. As President Obama said, community colleges have become – quote – “the unsung heroes of America’s education system.” As he put it, they “provide a gateway [for] millions of Americans to good jobs and a better life.”

With productive industries – in turn strengthened by qualified and equally productive workers – we can contribute to the growth of our economies. We can also help millions of young people – of any religion, socioeconomic background, or ethnicity – set a prosperous course for the rest of their lives.

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