The Youth Unemployment Debate: A Question of Education and Opportunity

The Youth Unemployment Debate: A Question of Education and Opportunity

Of all the issues facing the current global economy, the specter of youth unemployment is perhaps the most challenging. According to recent figures released by the International Labor Organization, there are more 75 million young people now unemployed throughout the world, with unemployment rates of more than 50% being recorded by once prosperous nations such as Spain and Greece.

Despite recent economic improvement and the drop in the UK’s overall level of unemployment, youth unemployment is still a big issue. In fact, youth unemployment is emerging as an important point of conflict in the build-up to the next General Election, with opposition leader Ed Milliband suggesting that youngsters who are unemployed would be forced to retrain or risk losing their benefits under a Labour government.

Do Youngsters Lack Opportunity or the Relevant Skills to Succeed?

While the problem is clear, however, the root cause and the potential solutions remain clouded in mystery. In terms of the former, it would be easy to blame high youth unemployment on prohibitive economic growth and a lack of job creation, but a look at the UK economy suggests that this is a false perception. Instead, it would perhaps be pertinent to look at the existing skillsets of youngsters in the UK and the opportunities that are presented to them, in order to understand whether young job seekers are being hindered by a lack of talent or viable employment options.

There is certainly concern at the state of the current curriculum in the UK, to the point where the government is already looking to restructure the program of learning that it delivers to students. This would involve creating a curriculum that suits prosperous industries within the existing employment market, while also accounting for the social issues that are likely to trouble future generations of adults (such as managing a paucity of disposable income and the failure to save). By creating a practical schedule of education for youngsters to follow, they are more likely to be empowered to work and boast the skills to meet demand.

In terms of opportunity, there are deeper-lying issues that require consideration. While the current government have made concerted verbal efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and empower ambitious youngsters as the employers of the future, for example, they have done little in practical terms to create less stringent lending criteria. As a result of this, cautious lenders and poor credit ratings are continuing to hinder young entrepreneurs and preventing them from achieving their professional goals.

Equipping Youngsters in a Changeable and Evolving World

These factors have combined to create a bleak outlook for the current generation of youngsters, who must overcome an inadequate education, minimal disposable income levels and a lack of genuine opportunity if they are to succeed. This was underlined in a recent report compiled by short-term lender Wage Day Advance, which revealed that the vast majority of applicants who requested loans in excess of £1000 were aged between 18 and 30. Considering this and the fact that the average age of a first-time home buyer in the UK has risen to 35, it is clear that young adults lack both the educational and financial resources to prosper once they have entered the world of work.

Perhaps the single most pertinent issue remains an outdated educational curriculum, which has not kept pace with the technological or social evolutions of the last decade. This leaves students lacking the qualifications, enthusiasm and awareness to make their mark in the world of work, especially in an economy that is failing to create long-term job opportunities. By making positive changes to curriculum and ensuring that they create an environment that actively empowers entrepreneurship, however, political leaders in the UK can tackle youth unemployment and protect the next generation of young adults.