It’s a polarising time to be young in Britain. Polarising is putting it lightly, I could easily substitute that for frustrating or exhausting. And above all, we feel powerless. We’re all too aware of the odds stacked against us, with over a tenth of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET), a tenth of graduates still unemployed 6 months after finishing their degree, and a fifth of 26 year-olds still living with their parents, and it feels like no one is offering solutions.
Particularly in tech skills, our generation feels in limbo. The world has advanced so much over the past few decades, that those of us born in the middle of it, have a huge advantage over our parents’ generation. Most of us laugh when we see a job offering that ‘requires’ the use of basic computer skills. But there's also a huge awareness that the skills we are learning now could soon be obsolete, and things that are seen as advanced or specialist skills today, could soon be as normal as MS Word in ten years. Someone like me, just having finished my first year at the University of Sheffield, hoping to go into journalism, and all too aware that by the time I get there the industry will have changed completely, and I’ll be woefully unprepared.
But we’re still being funnelled through this system of education that’s supposed to guarantee security, even though we know how untrue that is. We’re taught that academic qualifications are the way forward, rather than vocational skills that could well benefit us more. Students are pressured into making decisions for their future that aren’t the right ones, while the larger decisions concerning them are made on their behalf.
Nearly three quarters of 18 to 24 year-olds voted to remain, while over 60 percent of over-60s voted Leave. The vote two months ago threw into sharp relief the huge generational divide that exists in this country. When our futures are already so uncertain, young people vitally need those things you sold away with the Leave vote - the study abroad and the freedom to work and the open markets and the business links. Young people need someone to fight in their corner in the Brexit negotiations, or our futures will be more insecure than ever.
Though some of the groups that will be hurt by Brexit, are also some that voted it such large numbers for it. The data shows that those who felt marginalised, those in low-skill areas or on low incomes, voted overwhelmingly to Leave, a protest against successive governments they felt were ignoring them, but it is likely they will be the one that suffer the most under the economic strains that comes with the increasingly hard-Brexit being favoured by the Government. Now the vote has happened, we have to make the most of the opportunity created by Brexit, the opportunity to listen. The Inclusive Growth Commission is based around this idea, about increasing participation of people and local communities, to create a better, inclusive economic system across the UK. Throughout this series of blogs I want to explore the way my generation sees the world, and how we need to change politics, capitalism and society if we want a sustainable future.
I plan to look at this from three angles - firstly, how to change further and higher education to create a more mobile job market; then I will look at how young people are making politics more inclusive, and how this changes policy-making.
Now that the cracks among the British people are more obvious than ever, we cannot simply patch them up. We need to open up politics to hear the views of the whole nation, so that we can think critically about the sustainability of our country’s economy and society, and reshape our state into one that works.
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Dr David Etherington Prof. Martin Jones
Dr David Etherington and Professor Martin Jones explore how changes to the welfare system could promote inclusive growth
Our ‘deep dive’ research suggests that inclusive growth can reinvigorate places, but it will require a big effort from both local and national government. Inclusive growth can’t be done on the cheap.