Learning to trust ‘young people’

Not a week goes by in which ‘young people’ aren’t blamed for being unwilling to learn, idle, undisciplined or simple ‘lacking the skills’ for employment. They end up in alledgedly shoddy teaching institutions, doing Mickey Mouse degrees, or never engage with the employment market at all. Being part of the CIPD advisory panel for their excellent ‘Learning to Work’ campaign (check my bit.ly bundle on this) has taught me a number of lessons – and that even though I have been sceptical about this youthphobia for a long time. The first one is that none of us is immune to it – it may be a feature of middle age, but even I feel occasionally challenged by the same behaviours I displayed when being out and about under the influence of being 15. It’s all too easy to telling each other stories about teenagers not showing up for time and being glued to their mobile phones – behaviours I’ve seen trained professionals engage in on a regular basis. Yet, having worked on the employability frontline of higher education – arranging placements for London Met students, see common perceptions about institutions and qualifications above – has taught me is that ‘young people’ are a reflection of how ‘we’, the rest of society, treat ‘them’. ‘We’ react well to attempts of hearing us out and giving us the chance to contribute – so do ‘they’. What’s holding young people back are not only the lack of chances available – that’s really not their fault. Whenever the question of role models is being brought up – well, that’s ‘our’ responsibility again – I wonder how we ended up so distrustful of those who will be our workforce. And this is exactly where we should put in the work, offering chances to engage, opportunities to make mistakes, and mentor to succeed. As a recent poll of the 68% of employers who had given a chance to a young person in the last 12 months, conducted by the CIPD found out – 91% liked what they saw. Perhaps it’s our perception that’s not fit for purpose after all, not those who trying to figure out ‘our’ world for the first time.

October 1st, 2012 by