THE BLOG

Talking 'Bout Our Generation

16/04/2013 18:33 BST | Updated 14/06/2013 10:12 BST

I dedicate a day a fortnight to meet with people who inspire me and add spice to my thinking. Spending time with such people feeds my soul with new ideas. I always leave elatedly excited.

So it was fabulous to talk a million miles an hour with Na`Omi Canart last week. Na'Omi is a great friend, a Start-up Loans student ambassador and soon-to-be-graduate from the Westminster Business School.

We were talking about how there are two tales of our generation. We are a cohort divided - those who recognise the world has changed and those clinging to how they believe the world should be.

While change is inevitable massive shifts are uncommonly rare and when they begin, they take most people by surprise. Most can feel change is afoot but can't adapt to it fast enough and so find themselves unexpectedly ill-equipped to cope with the new paradigm.

We are in the middle of one of these shifts and it has coincided with an economic downturn whose severity rivals the great depression almost 100 years ago.

One of the most troubling consequences is the 20% youth unemployment rate and it is unacceptable; not just for young people but for society as a whole. When a significant proportion of a generation is locked out, or feels disengaged, we sow the seeds of discontent which smoothes a path to social unrest.

So no-one would blame us for believing we are the helpless generation, hopeless generation, bankrupt generation. Many commentators are bemoaning our lot with thinly-veiled enthusiasm as it suits their agenda.

I think they are wrong. I think we are witnessing one of the most exciting periods of history - what Umair Haque calls "The Human Age" - what Daniel Priestley calls "The age of the Entrepreneur". The growth and development of communication, technology and social media mean we are the generation with no pre-determined destiny. We can write our own destiny and re-invent the future in our own image.

We might have the big ideas but we need to take ownership of them and we need a bit of help to make them real.

Government and corporations must combine forces to support all young people. The ones that want a job and the ones that wish to create a job.

Most young people want to leave school, further education or university and get a job. They want a reason to get up in the morning and get dressed and go to work.

We need a revitalised education system which will not produce carbon copy students waving pieces of paper but possessing no demonstrable skills. Rather we must become global leaders in education producing world-class graduates who are truly future capable and ready to take the reins of our nation. A new world requires new ways of thinking.

Governments must make it easy for companies to hire young people thus encouraging businesses to invest in young people. A balance must be found to ensure young people receive adequate on-site experience without being exploited.

Corporations and shareholders should view their activities through the prism of sustainability, not just of profit but human capital, by considering the next generation and not just the next quarter. As shareholders increasingly exercise their collective power, beyond director remuneration, companies would be wise to remember that shareholders first and foremost represent parents and grandparents. They will benefit by recognising their obligation to increase the bottom line across time and space.

Increasingly young people want to create a job, not get a job.

Future business owners are looking for support and action from the government and politicians of all colours see entrepreneurship as a significant assist in pulling Britain out of the economic slump. Start-up Britain and Start-up Loans, national campaigns supported by government, are initiatives shepherding aspirational people through the entrepreneur fire. Not only financially but through quality mentoring.

Guidance and support is critically important to success. Young entrepreneurs coming out of full time education often need mentorship more than money as an idea takes flight when enough people help it grow strong wings.

The stage upon which we act out our lives is bigger than that of our parents. You can't try and fail quietly anymore. This will stop many from trying at all. But we must recognise that a bigger stage means access to a greater audience and compounded opportunities in turn compound the chances of success.

Those businesses which do succeed, and many won't, form the backbone of our economy. According to the Federation of Small Business there are 4.8 million businesses in the UK employing 23.9 million people. If half those businesses hired just a single additional worker we would solve unemployment. Simplistic maybe but it shows our challenges are not insurmountable.

Creating a Britain, a world, which is more enterprising, more future capable, more optimistic requires us all to show the tenacity of previous generations. Those who faced war and famine were driven by a need to survive. Can we, the so-called-hopeless generation become the enterprising generation driven by our imagination and determination?

Na'Omi and I certainly think so...