The youth of today

One of my abiding memories of my dear Grandad was of him pontificating about what young folk were up to – always started with “the youth of today”. I kind of forgave him for that because in his time communication methods were less sophisticated than they are now and his interaction with the so called “youth” was very limited and I guess his opinions were helped along by the newspapers he read.
So when I heard someone saying it a couple of weeks ago it drew me up.

How can it be that people still talk about “the youth of today” in 2012 if they were one huge amorphous mass?

I have the privilege of working with young people involved in the Young Enterprise Company programme Between September and March each year teams of young people form and run a company. This involves forming a board -with the recognised director roles, raising capital , choosing or creating a product or service, undertaking market research, selling , accounting, managing the people involved, dealing with problems – in fact everything that happens in a real business except their experience is condensed into little more than six months.

Here in Edinburgh and Lothian we have a wide range of young people taking part each year from both the state and independent sector. Each one of them is packed full of potential and apart from creating an environment, to allow them to experiment and perform, we hope to support them to recognise and understand their strengths and talents.

The joy for me of working with younger folk is that they come with very little baggage and – in my experience – are willing to try things that us older heads might dismiss .  We ask the adult volunteers to act as their mentors, to ask questions, to help them develop their own ideas rather than telling them what to do. I know from the conversations I have had with some that it can be really difficult but it is definitely worthwhile.

The disappointment for me is when such experiences are not valued by parents. To be fair I think there is still a lot of confusion around enterprise and entrepreneurship and although during the YE competition the students are required to set up a company, we know from the interviews at the end, that most have realised what they have learned will be useful at work, while only a few think they might set up their own businesses.

With all of the current talk about school leavers and students not being work ready here is a great example of how a programme, that is nearly 50 years old, gives young people a real life taste of business.

Maybe we should give that group the challenge of banishing “the youth of today” tag once and for all.

If you would like to learn more about Young Enterprise get in touch

2 Comments on The youth of today

  1. It sounds like a great project Jackie, would love to hear some examples of what they come up with.

    • Hi Anne – this year’s winners of the Lothian competition made bowls and clocks from melted vinyl records. Although this is not a new idea their approach to the quality of their product was very impressive. Some of the other products included a recipe book ( partially funded by advertising revenue!), a kit for kids to plant their own herbs, jewellery made by the team( always popular)and specially printed tshirts and hoodies.

      The winning company for Scotland created a glass that had measurement marks for little folk to put the right amount of cordial in before mixing it with water.

      The products are often incidental to the experiences though. There are awards for the Director roles too. Some things HR directors have to deal with ( often discipline and even sackings) would challenge older folk. Finance Directors have their work cut out keeping track of the money and getting the data for reporting.

      The best way to find out more is to come along to the awards night in March where the young people tell their stories. If anybody is interested just let me know and I will make sure you get an invitation.

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