How to Solve Youth Unemployment

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One in five young adults in Britain is unemployed, more than twice the rate for the workforce as a whole. And (temporarily, I hope) I am one of them. Yet I am convinced there has never been a better time to be young. The world is bursting with opportunity; every day, new inventions answer questions we had never thought to ask.

It’s time to tackle youth unemployment in that spirit; as Einstein said, “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Generation Y should stop asking “why me?” and start asking “why not?”

First, we must adopt the right mindset: positive in outlook and global in ambition. For optimism stems, not from denying change, but from recognizing the possibilities it presents. The job-for-life has gone – but so has the tedium of career monogamy. International competition has intensified – but also opened up new opportunities abroad.

Woolworths, Borders and Comet won’t be hiring again – but if Amazon brought them down, simultaneously it is enabling sole traders and aspiring authors to reach a wider audience than ever before.

So let’s forget misplaced nostalgia and address the heart of the problem. Youth unemployment has been rising for a decade; the financial crisis can’t take all the blame, but it can teach us to challenge easy assumptions. “Education is getting better” – but by indiscriminately awarding top grades, aren’t exam boards just aping credit ratings agencies?

“Everyone must go to university” – but since housing crashed when supply exceeded demand, are we surprised the same happened with graduates?

“Studying is always a good investment” – yet if excessive leverage can bring down banks and even governments, should students continue amassing record debts with only wishful thinking as collateral?

Education reform should be a priority. At university level, online courses potentially enable students to better align their programme with their interests and circumstances....
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