Youth Day is 40 years old
By the time you’re 40 you’ve learned a few things about life, about goals and reaching them, about responsibilities and taking them. You still have your dreams, but you’re no longer naïve.
Well, Youth Day is now celebrating its 40th birthday and it’s time to take stock. For some, it’s also a time to wake up and wise up. Our youth have learned down the years that they cannot depend on policymakers and politicians to generate millions of high-paying jobs for young people to walk into.
Youth and parents have heard the speeches, applauded the promise to ‘invest in our future’ and endorsed official efforts to tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.
Tragically, the mismatch between the promise and reality continues to this day. We’re a young, energetic country. Well over half the population is aged under 39, but 72% of the unemployed is under 34. The wasted potential makes you weep.Big, far-reaching policies don’t seem to get us very far. The alternative is small, individual steps and tightly focused objectives that will build the future one young person at a time.
We’ve established that young people can’t depend on policies and policymakers to transform their lives; at least, not for the immediate future. They therefore have to empower themselves. How?
First, get the best education you can. Most of us can’t afford private schooling, but you can achieve self-help and self-improvement for the cost of a library ticket. Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning at an early age and stick with it. Use your God-given common sense. Look for opportunities. There is continuing demand for artisans and skilled craftsman. You don’t need a university education to become a welder, plumber or lathe operator. Look for a gap in the real economy and go for it.
Be prepared to work from the bottom up in any activity that offers a way to advancement.
Families have responsibilities, too. Set an example. Give encouragement. Pass on information. Become a mentor. Be a father figure. Business can also do more. Many organisations point to an increasing percentage of turnover spent on training, but a shift in culture must accompany any shift in budgetary allocations.
Older staff have in-demand skills, but how intensive is the effort to ensure on-the-job skills transfer day by day? Individual responsibility for skills transfer to young colleagues should be a key component of every job specification for every experienced employee, not just those who become mentors.
In recent months we have all become aware of the frustration felt by young people and seen youthful protest degenerate into vandalism and wanton destruction. The authorities have no magic cure for frustration. Policy initiatives might come and might work down the line, but here and now the youth must implement their own strategy for working through these frustrations.
Write down ‘My youth policy for me’. Spell out the individual steps you can take to improve your chances of a job, a bursary, an apprenticeship – whatever the goals are.
Put that personal plan into action. Do it now. Don’t wait till you’re 40.
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