Youth Unemployment hits 1m

What does a headline like this make you think? Did you think about the one million young people looking for work? The poor state of the country and the economy? The fact that everything was better in your day? Such thoughts are automatic responses to headlines like this. It’s not our fault, us human beings are just made that way.

Newspapers should give away hot, sweet tea and a comfy sit-down with a headline like this. It would settle their readers’ jangling nerves but might would also create little moments of calm for us to see stories through the eyes of those directly involved. Only when the fight-or-flight reflex has passed can we see the millions of solutions to this problem. Only then can we appreciate how each individual navigates his or her way into work, and perhaps (if the tea is strong and sweet enough) we might even recall a relevant experience of our own.

The reality behind the headlines for young people today isn’t all that different from the reality anyone faces when, for the first time, the question is work. We’re all called upon to take a big step into the unknown and it’s scary. Very few of us have the fortitude to do this alone. Most of us look for support whether it’s from teachers, family, friends or complete strangers. We can succeed unsupported but we can also shut down. Who doesn’t believe our chances are far better when we don’t feel alienated or alone?

The reality for the one million youth unemployed is the same as it is for the rest of us. No-one really knows what work will be like until we taste it for ourselves. A headline like, ‘Youth Unemployment hits 1m’ isn’t written for young men and women entering work for the first time. It isn’t written for any other generation either. Its writers are confused by statistics and by pluralising a problem best solved individually, one person at a time.

I’m sure we’ll hear more powerful arguments to defend headlines like this but I want you to strain your ears for the other voices too. Perhaps they will be the voices of young people now working harder than ever before to fulfil their first experience of work and earn more to go with it. Maybe they’ll be from people of all ages, already in work with positive support and experience to offer from their professions or their own reflections on getting started. If you are one of these people, you may already know that beyond the headlines and the fear lie inspirational stories of achievement, fulfilment, hope and security. Each one as different as the person telling it. Individual people explaining the difference work made to them as they took their first, hopeful steps towards it.

Don’t laugh until you’ve seen them play live!

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