In many ways my generation found life incredibly easy. We generally had a pretty simple path. Go to school, try to fit in, break a few rules, learn why breaking the rules isn't a good thing, get exam results, go to university, party, get a degree, get a job. We weren't lost, we had it easy.
Times have changed, both drastically and tragically for the current crop of 13-25 year olds. A generation the media refers to as the "lost generation" both sympathetically and negatively in equal measure. Some people associate "lost" with laziness. Some tie it with ineptitude. Sadly, most of us have used it in some form or other, as if there isnothing that can be done. Some offer solutions, but most don't want to take part in them.
The lost generation is a national disaster waiting to happen and once it does the impact will be far more damaging than simply an economic issue. Once you remove a whole generation from the potential of a fulfilled life and from meaningful employment -they don't pass these values onto their kids. The link is broken.
Talk to any 13-18 year old and ask them what they feel like to be referred to as the"lost generation" and there is a deep sadness. A look that shows a disappointment with society. One South London teenager we spoke to said, "It makes me feel like I have already lost any chance". To be thinking this at any stage in life is heartbreaking, the acceptance that perhaps society is right, perhaps we are best forgotten. To think this when you are young and have little experience other than the educational system is downright horrible.
The problem is that it's a hidden issue, not as obvious as the banks collapsing. It also a problem that has been hijacked by the London riots, making us believe that's it's all about 'lack of social opportunities' . But its not as simple as building more youth clubs or cross cultural youth engagement programs. It originates from the inability to create commercial opportunities for all and the future of these teenagers is getting damaged.They don't have a voice and worst of all is that they certainly didn't cause the problem.
This is a situation where business needs to step up. People like you, people like me. This means moving beyond political agendas, working across parties to find programs that work. Not simply pushing 'youth enterprise schemes'. But finding a balance between funds, capability and access to networks.
There will be a time when all businesses have to find this 'third way' - instead of relying on universities to get them the young people they need (which isn't working anymore) - businesses will have to reach further down into the life cycle. To influence first the university courses and then ultimately providing alternative ways for young people to get the skills needed. This ability to shape young people will be a competitive advantage for the modern business.
It is a good thing that there is a growing movement of people, entrepreneurs, nice folk, smart businessmen and women, who don't believe that "teenagers have no idea, don't know how to run businesses, and are a waste of time" - as one VC told us when we asked him about starting an investment fund focused on teenagers. In fact time and time again we have met people who doubt there is any worth in investing money into teenagers. We have never believed this.
But I'd argue that these negative people are viewing the world in the same way they always have. They ignore the real facts. Teenagers like Aaron Bond (one of the teenagers we work with), NickD'Aloisio, Zoe Jackson, Josh Buckley, Jamal Edwards, Adam Hildreth, Chris Phillips, Fraser Doherty, have all started successful businesses from their own ideas, through their own hard work, and a belief in their ability. Sadly belief is not always present in a lot of the teenagers we meet and we are setting out to change that.
Next Bigger Better is part of a growing movement of organizations willing to spend their time and money in inspiring teens about entrepreneurship. Our belief is that we can inspire 1m+ of Britain's young people to follow a path through entrepreneurship, where entrepreneurship isn't just about starting companies but a way of thinking.Something that can be applied in any business anywhere.
Youth. Our British youth. Our future. They are lost and will remain lost because the government refuses to see the impact before its too late. But they don't need us to give them the same map that we used. A map that is out of date in this modern world. We need to plot a new direction, create a new map and bring Britain's youth along with us.
Info about Next Bigger Better:
A company founded by Matt Bamford-Bowes and Andy Battman, our aim is to inspire 1m+ young people about entrepreneurship through investment and education. http://www.nextbiggerbetter.com or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Matt Bamford-Bowes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mattbambow