Q&A with CEO of Nestlé Zone Americas
Why is Youth Development a priority for Nestlé?
We believe that communities cannot thrive if they fail to offer a bright future for younger generations. As a major employer, Nestlé can make a positive difference. Our Nestlé needs YOUth initiative is helping young people around the world focusing on our core impact areas of employment and employability, agripreneurship and entrepreneurship. We offer training, mentorships and professional development opportunities and advance the skills they need to kickstart their careers. Building sustainable economies will depend on ensuring the next generation is able to access employment opportunities. Yet young people around the world are struggling to find such opportunities or to start their own business. This situation has only become more challenging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, we scaled up the digitalization of our programs to ensure continued support for young people amid global restrictions. We are developing important new commitments to keep leveraging the momentum we have built to help young people reach their potential toward our 2030 commitment to help 10 million young people access economic opportunities.
Why do you believe that Youth Development is critical during this pandemic era?
According to the International Labour Organization, the impact of the pandemic on young people is deep and disproportionate, impacting their learning journeys and work, but also their mental health. Right now, millions of young people are under threat globally. For many, finishing their studies is out of the question; they will struggle to enter the labour market. Others have lost jobs and see no hope.
As we begin to recover from the pandemic, many businesses will lack the relevant skills needed to be successful in the future. That is why our contribution to the future generation is absolutely fundamental.
We cannot afford to lose a generation, at a time of technological changes with the sustainability imperative which is ours. We must skill, reskill and upskill our young people and we must do it quickly. It is the only way out of the crisis and the only path to sustainable growth.
What do you think differentiates our youth today from past generations?
Youth today have to be extremely agile, open minded and willing to challenge the status quo as a result of the rapid modernisation of our planet. In many cases traditional education, if available, no longer prepares young people for the current and future world of work. It is estimated that over 60% of the children entering primary school today will have jobs that do not exist yet. They need the right skills and experience to help them strive in a rapidly changing economic landscape. This is why since 2013 we have supported hundreds of thousands of young adults to prepare for the world of work by providing working opportunities, traineeships, internships and apprenticeships through our Nestlé needs YOUth initiative.
How can Caribbean youth be empowered to be leaders in their communities?
Do not be afraid. There are things you can do right now to prepare for the future — seek out every kind of experience, starting in your community: you will learn teamwork and leadership. Know that an exciting future lies ahead for you. There are big issues to solve. Some jobs will disappear, but new space will open up for more fulfilling work. Geography will not constrain your generation. People in previous generations had to be where the jobs were — thanks to the technology job opportunities can come to you wherever you are in the world. There is a lot to look forward to. Do not give up, be open, be daring and dream high.
Why should youth of the Caribbean attend the Nestlé Caribbean Youth Summit on Oct 5-6, 2021?
Under Nestlé’s leadership, we have held Youth Summits all over the world in different regions, with thousands of young people attending and benefitting from this unique learning opportunity. This two-day virtual event in October will consist of motivational discussions, workshops, mentorship sessions and features from experts in various fields. Together with the Alliance for YOUth partnership, we will also make public our pledges to support youth development over the next three years. The Caribbean Youth Summit is meant to be fun and engaging, while thought provoking and challenging for all involved. More information about the Nestlé Caribbean Youth Summit can be found at Nestlé Caribbean Youth Summit | Nestlé (nestle-caribbean.com).
About Laurent Freixe
Laurent Freixe is currently Chief Executive Officer of Zone Americas, the largest region for Nestlé, accounting for 45% of its turnover. Born in Paris, France, Laurent Freixe joined Nestlé France in 1986. Laurent plays a leading role in promoting youth employment and employability across the company. Starting in Europe, Laurent launched the Nestlé Needs YOUth initiative in 2013 and has been successfully driving this global initiative that aims at providing a wide range of employment opportunities for young people under 30. This initiative purposes to strengthen their capabilities and professional skills, to raise their employability. In addition to his current responsibility, Laurent is International Youth Ambassador for the International Youth Organization for Ibero-America, Chairman of the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) and Chairman of the Global Alliance for Youth.