According to statistics from the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, the number of long-term youth unemployed (aged 16 to 25) in Britain now stands at 342,000 (although this number is falling, albeit only slightly, but falling nonetheless). Perhaps most striking is the fact that the youth unemployment rate stands at 17.3%, against 6.4% for those aged 25 to 49 is now 6.4% and 4.5% for those aged 50 or older. Youth unemployment has risen more in the last two years, at a rate of 5.1 percentage points for young people, than any other category (the figure is 2.5 points for those aged 25 to 49 and 1.7 points for the over-50s). Of this group of long-term unemployed, young men represent the significant majority.
We are not quite gambling away the future prosperity of UK plc. However we are at risk of raising a generation of disaffected young men, wasting a huge amount of talent and opportunity as a consequence, let alone the drain that this is placing on the state in unemployment benefits and missed tax revenues from those out of work.
There is no quick fix to what is a long-term social problem. However fix it we must. The answer lies in education. Not just education in the academic sense, but in raising awareness, opening eyes as to the opportunities by recruiting positive role models with whom young people can engage.
There are countless examples of successful people who have come from disadvantaged backgrounds in economically deprived areas. Many I am sure would be only to willing to go back to those areas in which they grew up, to give of their time to inspire young people, to educate, to raise awareness of just what can be achieved.
Success means different things to different people. I am not just talking about people who have created their own material wealth. Positive role models come in all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds. Such a scheme should extend to those in public service, Fireman, Nurses, Soldiers. They should come from Churches, from Sport, from the Media, from Industry. It can be the CEO of a large Corporation, the Team Leader in a call centre, the foreman in a factory, the electrician, the plumber, the mechanic.
It really doesn’t matter who they are and what they do. What matters is the story. Where they came from, the journey they took to get them to where they are today. Real life stories, real experiences, something that young people can relate to.
Whilst we need help from Politicians to create the frameworks through education, apprenticeships, incentives for employers to hire young people, it is not the Politicians who will provide the inspiration. Find a way to engage with the people who can really transform lives, who can provide the inspiration, who come from the communities that need help. Start with the schools and youth centres and encourage our young people to see the very real opportunities that are available to them. People will do it, will give of their time to share their experiences. Lets give them the platform to inspire a generation.