Thursday, 23 January 2014

Britain's Struggling Youth

Young people are already at a disadvantage to their parents. Supposedly, today's youngsters are going to be the first generation in a century to be worse off than their parents, AND we're going to be working longer. So shouldn't the government be giving young people a leg-up to try and prevent this from happening? Increasing numbers of youngsters being diagnosed with depression, U25s facing benefit cuts while rich pensioners get free TV licences, tuition fees rocketing to unreasonable rates.. Oh maybe not then.

As a group of society, young people get neglected by all the main political parties the majority of the time, mainly because few people our age vote, so we aren't considered an important group to attract. Unfortunately, it would seem this is a vicious circle, if the parties don't give us policies of relevance to us to vote for, what will encourage a higher turnout of young people at elections? Political parties need to come to the realisation that they need to offer young people something, to get them involved, and to make politics relevant. In my opinion, people should be exposed to politics at secondary school, and they should be taught during PSHE what it is, how it works, and most importantly, how vital it is. Only then will young people become aware of politics, and start engaging on a larger scale.

Being neglected in policy isn't the only issue imposed on young people by politicians, another major one is the education system. I'm currently in year 12 at sixth form studying my AS levels. A levels are brilliant for academics, who want to go on to university. However, for people who aren't as academic, the alternatives are dire. Most end up taking A level courses disrespected by Russell Group universities, thus ending up at bad, ex-polytechnic universities that don't appeal to employers. This is due to an abolishment of apprenticeship schemes, and polytechnic colleges, as well as an increasing pressure from the government over the years for people to get a degree. This has resulted in alternative B-tech courses becoming frowned upon and misunderstood. Currently too many people are taking doss degrees, and struggling to get a job while worrying about a student debt that's, well, big.

I think the whole system has to change, and we ought to take inspiration from our German neighbours. In Germany half of youngsters aged 15-16 are in vocational training or apprentice schemes. Apprentices spend more time receiving on-the-job training than in school, and after a few years are almost guaranteed a job. We ought to encourage the private-sector into developing hundreds more apprenticeship schemes, and not just the traditional type. There needs to be apprenticeships in computing, food production, business, engineering, and manufacturing that can give students the security of either a job or a good reference come the end up of the course. The system also ought to let people work their way up to the top, despite the educational path they choose to take, giving people who aren't the most academic an incentive to work hard knowing they will be rewarded.

The youth can't just be forgotten about. Young people need to be assisted in preparing for a much tougher future. If Britain wants to remain a major economic power, we must train our next generation of workers sufficiently to compete in a more hostile job market, give financial backing to those who require it; for instance paying the fees for talented students from less-privileged backgrounds at top universities, (even reintroducing Thatcher's Assisted Places Scheme) and building more homes while giving generous (but cautious) loans to young people trying to get on the property ladder through schemes like Help To Buy.

Not much to do then.

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