The truly depressing statistic that emerged from unemployment figures released last week was that the level of unemployment for 16-24 years olds had almost reached one million. This growing number of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) is a national tragedy in a number of ways.
For the hard pressed Generation Xer though, struggling with pressures of family responsibility, job insecurity and collapsing pensions, the trials and tribulations of Generation Y may seem of little concern, especially when they are constantly told it is down to them to adapt to the values of this generation rather than the other way round.
Indeed it is fashionable to claim that school and college leavers and graduates attempt to enter the world of work with little or no concept of what is required regarding skills, discipline and timeliness, and with more interest in what the job can do for them rather that what they can do in their job. There are glib suggestions that a haircut and a makeover are all that is necessary to turn things around.
All this is extremely unfair on young people. They are not stupid. Many are very entrepreneurial in their own way. They recognise trends. They can react quickly. They often start their own businesses. They can think the unthinkable. They may suffer from lack of conventional “experience”, but the most tech savvy generation ever already have a wealth of “experiences” to draw on.
The growing NEET problem is clearly not all down to employer attitudes. Young people do need to be more aware of the challenges facing their elders. Family environments and educational establishments have to do a lot more to encourage the right sort of thinking and attitude. Initiatives such as Surrey Young Enterprise , which are excellent ways of engaging young people with business and commerce, need to be strongly supported by business and government alike.
Yes, it is not easy in a world where it seems more and more people are chasing fewer and fewer opportunities, but opportunities are often created in adversity, and finding ways to tap into the talents of an increasingly forgotten generation is surely as good a place as any to start.