Youth empowerment is imperative not only for national development but also for personal development of an individual. According to the recently released census data, our population comprises 60 percent of the youth. This is both a threat and an opportunity. If this raw talent’s energy is not channelised, well then we have a real challenge at hand as it might act as a time bomb for our country. However, by channelising the energy and raw talent of the youth in the right direction, we can prepare them for a productive role aimed at shaping the future of the nation. History has shown that under the dynamic leadership of the Quaid-e-Azam, the youth played an instrumental role in bringing Pakistan into being. The Quaid-e-Azam considered the youth as nation builders of tomorrow. He strongly believed in equipping the youth with discipline, education and training for the arduous tasks lying ahead of them. Today, the youth of Pakistan is facing various social, political and economic changes. If we review our past policies, we would notice the palpable lack of concrete youth targeted policies. These policies have lacked consistency, coherence and a broader perspective. Given the present scenario of our country in terms of youth bulge, the slogan of youth empowerment has taken the centre-stage. However, the best way to empower our youth is through provision of greater educational and economic opportunities. Punjab Educational Endowment Fund (PEEF) is South Asia’s largest scholarship programme. The basic purpose behind the programme is to provide scholarships to the deserving but talented students who aren’t able to pursue higher education due to financial constraints. The scholarships of worth Rs. 12 billion have been awarded so far. Under the umbrella of PEEF, Shahbaz Sharif Merit Scholarship (SSMS) is a revolutionary step of the Punjab government, which enables the youth to study in the top ranked educational institutions of the world by funding their whole expenditure. PEEF is a story of dedication and vision in the service of the youth that is changing lives and help realise dreams. In the middle of difficulty lies an opportunity and educational scholarship is a gateway to opening of new avenues of socio-economic mobility and growth. The launch of Chinese and Turkish Language Scholarship programs by the Punjab government is a step in the right direction. I believe that these Language Scholarship Programs are very productive exercise with far-reaching results. Besides being time-tested and sincere friends of Pakistan, both China and Turkey are our trusted development partners. Given the increasing footprint of the Chinese and Turkish investment and trade in Punjab and Pakistan, the language courses being funded by Punjab will help our students acquire expertise and understanding that will help facilitate interaction between our two countries. In addition to further strengthening our bilateral relations with these countries, the scholarship programs will open up more avenues for our youth in terms of better career prospects. Skill development has created a huge space for generation of employment in today’s world. The idea of earning millions by bringing fresh prospective and out of box thinking on the table is very encouraging and unique. One cannot only create job for oneself but also create livelihood opportunities for others. Unfortunately we as a nation are lagging behind in developing skills of our youth. But the recent keen interest of government in this field is laudable. On the directions of the Chief Minister, TEVTA is engaged in imparting skills to two million youths of Punjab by the end of 2018. The project of Punjab Tianjin Technical University has been envisaged and definitely, Chinese expertise would be useful for the Punjab government. The students of Punjab Tianjin Technical University will get same facilities and latest technical education which is being provided in Tianjin University. The students of this university would get dual degrees. Chief Minister Punjab’s E-Rozgar Scheme, and Interest-free loan scheme are some other initiatives taken by Punjab to empower youth. It is a high time we utilised our resources to train our students in terms of technical, human resource and skill development. We need to create backward and forward linkages between industry and academia. Instead of preparing generalists, we should focus on producing qualified human resource keeping in view the indigenous and foreign demands. The construction of CPEC projects across the country has thrown open a huge demand for skilled labour and it is now on us how we convert this challenge into an opportunity. The Chinese model of converting youth bulge into a demographic dividend needs to be emulated in our efforts to empower our youth. There is no denying the fact that our youth is talented and hard working. They have the overwhelming desire to realize their potential into an asset for the nation-building, provided the state can enable and equip them necessary tools. It is heartening to note that there is a discernible realization of giving our youth the conducive environment for development. While the Punjab government has launched much needed initiatives, it is important that sustainable youth empowerment policies at the national level are worked out after consultation with all stakeholders particularly the youth bodies. We have to make our youth agent of change through investment in their future. Published in Daily Times, August 31st 2017.