Another stagnant set of employment figures were released last week and there is rightly a continued focus on education, young people, employment and skills. I was recently a Counsellor at One Young World. This a 'mini-Davos' styled event which brought together 1400 young people from over 170 countries who are potential future leaders in politics, civic society, business and social business. It is a great event and worth looking out for if you have not come across it.
I spent a lot of time with delegates - young people - from many of the different countries, listening to their views on global youth unemployment and poverty. Of course, poverty in Brazil, Mongolia and Somalia feels very different to poverty in the UK, US and France. Nevertheless, an interesting set of suggestions and ideas came out of these discussions with people from very different backgrounds. There are three examples below that struck me.
Firstly, it was clear that many people were inspired by the idea of enterprise and entrepreneurship. It was also clear that, for the majority (not all cases), this was the first time they had been inspired to think about this option. One of A4e's customer's - Kelly, who started up her own business in February this year - was showcased and had the audience on their feet, despite being terrified at the thought of participating live on stage as part of Doug Richard's session on enterprise. Many countries education, skills and employment policies do not do enough to help stimulate ambition and aspiration to 'make a job not take a job' by setting up on your own. In the UK we need to do so much more.
Secondly, I was involved with delegates in a session by the Grameen Lab - the folk who drive innovation in social business and spawned out of Mohammed Yunus' work. Many young people, from all continents, wanted to work in social businesses. This chimes with messages we are seeing in the UK. There is a desire for business to be socially accountable in itself, not just trade carbon or have a 'CSR' department as a way of pacifying a corporate conscience. Those of us on the Global Business panel got a good set of challenging questions on this and young people were wanting to set up new businesses and work for companies who 'got' this new approach.
Finally, some delegates from Africa also approached me - in talking about Millenium Development Goals - about making access to the internet a 'universal right'. Social media was a massive part of the conference - communities and people disengaged from access to technology are disengaged from opportunity, employment and skills. Most importantly, they are cut off from the networks that can help them progress. A key part of tackling unemployment - especially with young people - is connecting them to new networks where people are in work or are running their own companies - different to their traditional networks. Social media liberates this in new ways that drive opportunities and jobs as well as helping people who often feel alone, isolated and unique in their combination of problems. Social media can help connect communities of interest who then share the progress they are making.
What does this mean for young people in the UK? The way our media works often paints a very bleak picture of employment and opportunity as the recession lingers. But talk to young people in many countries and similar themes emerge that are relevant to our local communities. A key issue in the UK is keeping the ambition and aspiration alive. More people are starting their own business and opportunities abound. Access to technology helps create networks for jobs as well as the new media itself creating new job opportunities. Social business is such a 'hot' issue that young people with ideas can help transform existing business and create new companies relevant to our economy - an issue this government is keen to sponsor and support.
There is more to be done on helping young people develop a broad range of skills - resilient skills - that helps future generations of the workforce respond to the economic shocks that will inevitably come over the next 50 years of their career as they have in the last 50 years.
Workforces now and in the future need to be mobile and prepared to move to find work in the global economy. They need to develop the broader social and soft skills need to make them employable. Organisations need to provide technical and sectoral skills training and there must be an expectation to keep refreshing these over the long term.
This is where there needs to be a clear focus in the support for young people into work - I am all for Work Acadamies but let's equip unemployed young people with a broad set of capabilities and competencies, not just a narrow set for one job. Prepare people for a career that will evolve not just a job. And, like Kelly (http://www.schoolforstartups.co.uk/smallgiants/entrepreneur/kelly-currie) let's get more young people starting their own business.