This is what it feels like to be young

Youth culture is often reflected in the lyrics of songs. Not all teenagers are the same, but the lyrics of Anne-Marie’s latest hit “To Be Young” clearly resonate with a section of today’s young society. Anne-Marie sings:

“They tell me I should make a plan for life   
All I’m thinkin’ ‘bout is what to do tonight”

In the chorus of the song she sings:

“Dye my hair a million colours
Dream I’ll make a billion dollars
I swear that day can’t come soon enough”

“This is what it feels like to be young” is the last line of the chorus.

All our futures are at stake

Now I’m not trying to stereotype the whole of our teenage population, but making a plan for life is clearly not on the radar of all our young people. And herein lies a problem for us all. All our futures are at stake if we can’t fill the skills gaps that are emerging in the workforce. The digital transformation that is taking place in society and in the workplace means that the jobs of the future are not all the same as jobs of the past.

In a deeply analytical report of November 2017 (Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages), the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that between 400 million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030 around the world. This means that young people today need a greater appreciation of careers, the career choices open to them and the job options that exist both today and in the future.

Learning and careers

It’s clear that the world of academia is aware of the problem and is moving in the right direction to address the emerging skills gaps. Focus on the Gatsby benchmarks in schools is evidence of this shift, linking curriculum learning to careers and developing experiences of workplaces. However, the pace of change in the workplace means schools will find it difficult to keep up. Furthermore, some of the tools that are being used to link learning to careers have a start point that says “make a plan for life”, the very thing that Anne-Marie’s song suggests is unachievable!

It seems clear to many people sitting outside academia that this goal of linking curriculum learning to careers needs some support. Support from people who understand how to engage and stimulate the minds of teenagers. People who understand how to motivate and empower students using the very best media and communication techniques of our day. Ask yourself this question: How come there are millions of dollars available to build virtual reality (VR) into gaming culture, but no dollars available for VR in careers education? The answer must lie in the profit motive. The entertainment industry is highly lucrative; not so education.

Private enterprise versus government

If private enterprise is not moving towards helping schools in linking learning to careers, then the task must surely fall on the government to address the matter. And maybe this is already happening. Maybe the Ofsted focus on the Gatsby benchmarks is a good illustration of positive change. So not all doom and gloom, but it just might be true that government doesn’t have all the answers. Maybe some creative collaboration between private enterprise and government is the way forward. Taking the cream of the media and communication world, blending it with best technology of the day, and using the power of government to open pathways for social change. Maybe this is the right blend for the future. Maybe we should all recognise that “This is what it feels like to be young” and introduce some new thinking into the world of careers advice.

Alan Joenn is Marketing Director at Working Eye.