Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
The new millennium has been a turbulent time, not least for young people. The last two decades have been unfair for our generation in a number of ways, and it has resulted in widespread apathy and disillusionment, among other effects. Zoomers’ formative years have been marred by episodes of instability and setbacks; featuring two recessions, a worldwide pandemic, Brexit, austerity, university tuition fees, and more. As someone turning 22 next month set on a career in journalism, I am looking to make my first official step on the career ladder at a publication.
But that positive outlook looks uncomfortably far-reaching, given the sparse COVID-19 job market, the cancelation of graduate schemes, and the continued disruptions within education as a result of quarantine. A recent Prince’s Trust survey overwhelmingly showed that 16-to-24-year olds feel that their future career prospects have been damaged due to coronavirus, with nearly half of those surveyed complaining that job hunting is “impossible”.
Many, including myself, feel anxious about what the future holds and whether they have a role to play as they try to work their way up the social ladder. (Outside of this, there is also a discussion about generational effects, but that is a discussion for another time.) I believe we do, and anyone who disagrees appears to be underestimating the importance of motivated and determined youngsters in rebuilding the country’s finances.
In order to turn this ideal into a reality, businesses, policymakers, and employers must stay focused on supporting and giving opportunities to, children and young adults. Bold action is required, even during what Chancellor Rishi Sunak described as the “hard times”, but it is a necessary course of action post-furlough.
It means guaranteeing educational funds for sixth forms and colleges to teach students regardless of their socio-economic background. It also means an array of work-focused programmes like apprenticeships designed to shoot teenagers into jobs after training. Plus, we cannot forget those who have been furloughed or been laid off, offering a solution to transition them back into the sector they were in previously.
We understand from the latest reports that the impacts of lockdown are worse than the post-war depression. By this logic, that era should be viewed as a repository of a particular kind of wisdom. What I mean by this is that we must look back in time to rescue what has gone missing as of present in relation to the youth.
When former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt put forward his ‘New Deal’ (and, to a lesser extent, Clement Attlee proposition for the expansion of the welfare state), young people were the mainstay figures for rejuvenation, and many policies were created to help the up-and-comers like Civilian Conservation Corps and many other skilled and semi-skilled jobs. How, therefore, is it at all possible to ‘lose a generation’ whilst at the same time bounce back from the doom of debt? It does not make sense for politicians to think like this. I am no economist, but it is obvious that having a socially mobile workplace of tomorrow will invariably lead to better outcomes for the rest of society. That is why investing in people like us, right now, is crucial. Because when young people succeed, we all succeed.