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The Beat(en) generation



Youth is wasted on the young? Well to be honest it isn’t a great time to be a young person right now. Figures out from the Prince’s Trust charity this morning show that the number of people aged between 16 and 24 claiming unemployment benefit for more than a year has also quadrupled since the start of the recession.  Not surprising the same period of time has seen the cost of youth crime increase 20% to around £1.2bn per annum.

I’d proffer that the figures are probably hide a situation that is significantly worse.  The measure of long-term unemployment is pretty urban centric and rules out a lot of seasonal workers in rural areas who break long periods of unemployment with short periods of employment.  But that aside this is a hell of a bleak outlook for our next generation and a significant cost to the tax payer at about £20m per week.

It is hard to see what we are doing at the moment to try to tackle any of these issues.  Young people, and particularly those shorter educational backgrounds, are stereotyped.  Partly because they are ill-equipped for the world of work but also partly through prejudice and fear.  Crime we believe to be purely because of misintention and evil and never because of need, anger or frustration.

I’ve said it before, but our education system is not fit for purpose and is failing our young people.  The answer is not to compel education but instead to make education compelling.  Young people become disaffected and leave the education system because their talents are not recognised and they see no relevance in the lessons.  So we need to understand how to make this better, more relevant and more diverse.  Some may call it dumbing down, I’d happily argue that some education is better than no education and just because a course is, for example, vocational doesn’t mean it is easy.

And then we need to tackle the labour market. Spending £20m a week to keep people out of work is a complete nonsense. But subsidizing employers to employ young people doesn’t work either.  We need to take a longer term view, to understand the sectors that we believe are growth and the ones in which we want UK plc to excel in.  Then we need to encourage capital investment to make sure that we are world-class and the background skills development to ensure that we can provide the local labour force to add to the competitive advantage.

Sure it isn’t easy and there are greater minds than mine who will wrestle with this. But big problems require big thinking, courage and passion.  Everybody should have the right to a decent education and a decent job.  What that means will be different for different people, but the disaffected youth are no exception.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/02/2010 11:51

    It’s certainly not about dumbing down education, it’s about making education engaging and relevant to the learner. Two crucial challenges for a teacher.

    Another issue is the training of teachers to be cold and emotionally aloof. When you train teachers not to become emotionally involved, many automatically become emotionally uninvolved. This does nothing for a childs spirit or sense of self.

    Great Post!

  2. 12/02/2010 13:30

    Interesting post – I am certainly a great believer in the fact that no-one is good at everything but everyone is good at something. I am old enough to remember the old secondary modern system where those who were not academically slanted went on to undertake a highly valuable vocational education. As a country we have this obsession with sending a higher and higher proportion of our young people to university. I am all for everyone having the opportunity but then we end up with high graduate unemployment, a two tier system where some degrees are valued by employers as more ‘worthy’ and no plumbers!!

    My brother was not gifted academically as he will be the first to admit – luckily for him there was still a scheme called apprenticeships – he left school at 16 went on to qualify as an electrician and now runs his own business, providing employment to others, and therefore contributing to the economy!

    Education needs some joined up thinking

  3. fernandomando permalink
    12/02/2010 13:33

    I am interested that you say the education system does not equip young people for work. This is often said, but I do wonder what is meant by it. I suspect everyone in a career has learned and developed the skills they need through doing the job itself. That was true for me when I worked in McDonald’s and is true now that I am a legal professional. What is it that employers would like to be taught to prospective employees when they are at school?

    From another stance, life would be horrendous if all that our children and young people were taught was purely vocational.

  4. Sukh Pabial permalink
    12/03/2010 10:40

    One of my friends is a secondary school teacher and for the last 2-3 years they’ve been running diplomas alongside the standard GCSEs. Those children who aren’t academically astute are encouraged to take up the diplomas and focus there. It’s all about real work experiences supported by businesses and the kids come out with a formal qualification that is the equivalent of a GCSE. It’s a great scheme and he is glad that the kids who know they won’t excel via the traditional route take this up and do well.

    It actually upsets me that programs like Sure Start have been scrapped, because, as you say it’s all about creating the right support for our future. I have great trouble reconciling the actions of the current government against the likely consequences this means for my children’s future.

    Another good thought provoking post. Makes me want to go out and set up a private enterprise of some sort to put the world to rights.

  5. 12/06/2010 15:15

    life would be horrendous if all that our children and young people were taught was purely vocational.

    Agreed, but it is also not necessary for every kid to go to college. Roofers and plumbers and carpenters can make a really good living and we need them.

    And if one does go to college, it is probably not the smartest thing to borrow $200,o00 to major in sociology:

  6. 12/07/2010 10:47

    @Michael G. – Thanks for commenting and welcome. I couldn’t agree with you more. We need to think about how we engage. That is the only way through.

    @Tracey Dunn- You’re brother sounds like a classic example of someone who found something that engaged them, that they were good at and ultimately prospered from. That surely has to be the way, no?

    @fernandomando – I agree that vocational isn’t the way for everyone. I’m talking about a range. In terms of preparing children for work, you’re right part time work goes a hell of a long way to doing that. I don’t believe the education system can teach us everything that we need to know, but I do think it can provide experiences that allow children to develop self-confidence, maturity, inter personal skills and intellectual curiosity. But only if we approach education in a new way.

    @Sukh Pabial – I worry a lot about the future too. I guess those of us that are will provide as much opportunity for our children as we can. Perhaps what worries me more is those that assume that the state will do everything for their kids. And then will realise too late that they aren’t.

    @The gold digger – Absolutely. It is not necessary for every kid to go to college.

  7. 12/25/2010 00:27

    While most will blame the educational system for the lack of preparation of the youth, I blame the family for that. 45 years ago the family looked at education as something that
    started at home. It was a family attitude. They read more and cared more about receiving an education. Today, it looks like the family is not responsible for education. They send the children to school to pass subjects and get a diploma. It doesn’t matter if that diploma is worth anything to get a job. Those whose families never educated them to take school seriously would never get to college. This is why I say that college is not for everyone and they’d better get some vocational training instead of being unemployed for long.

  8. 01/04/2011 08:33

    @Young HR Manager – Hi there, welcome and thanks for commenting. Sure the education system cannot solve the problem on its own….and I agree the family needs to play a part, but if we want to break cycles of educational underperformance, we can’t just leave it to the family in my opinion.


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