This is my final update of my last post, about an employability fair organised by the local council, where I volunteered this weekend.
I didn’t get an opportunity to write my final update at the fair, as it got increasingly busy towards lunchtime, and I started helping with channeling people in (and yes, I actually also gave a social media clinic – albeit to another provider). There are a few patterns that made me think: The first one was that about two thirds of people coming into the fair were parents, step-parents, aunts or uncles, looking out for opportunities for their young charges. Sometimes with them, sometimes without them. The other pattern was that many of them came clearly not the middle-class, or upper class background that I’m used to from higher education. Which made me both hopeful and sad. I made me sad, because it became clear that measures taken to support youth employability are problem-centered, rather than developmental – what I mean by that is that young people’s employability is something that is applied to solve a problem carried by young people (such as real uncertainty about their future), rather than an opportunity to grow and develop young people as a chance to improve society by helping young people find their way. I know this may sound naive – but again, my experience is mostly in higher education where that anxiety about the future seems just less prevalent. Yes, I have also worked with many first tertiary education engagers, and bluntly just (economically) poor students – but this was another level of … desperation. I won’t raise class and the barriers to attainment as an issue just yet, but may do so in the future. I just want to point to the emotional impact it made on me, and how that impacts on my thoughts. But there was hope – and that showed with every person who made their way into the fair, especially the parent generation. They clearly knew that education and skills (on whatever level) are the key to attainment and economical improvement (I’m not saying prosperity, as I think the stumbling blocks put in their way are daunting) – and they came to make their children’s lives better. There has been a lot of public maligning of this strata of society, and a blame culture has emerged, which combines attitudes to class with fear of of youths – at the fair, organised by the local council, with local education, training, volunteering and job providers, that attitude was absent. And I can’t thank Mel enough for showing commitment and drive to organise this.
What I’ve learnt – even more than I already knew – is that we (society, media, elected officials, etc.) don’t only need a change of policy, but also a change of attitude. This is nothing young people have to do to for us – this is what we need to do for them.