Young people need our help

Oh, to be young again.
How often do those of us over 50 utter those words when our backs are aching, when our hair is thinning, when our eyesight is dimming, and when our memory is . . . ummm, I can’t remember what I was going to say about my memory.
We don’t mean it, though, because none of us with any good sense would want the struggles young people have today.
There are roadblocks at every turn. Unless you have unlimited cash resources, getting ahead is a bit of tricky business.
I know what some of you are thinking—that they don’t have it so rough. But we live in an economy that would like to crush us; an economy that makes dreaming impossible.
We had our own struggles when growing up, but we could find work (most of us) and doors opened in front of us. And though we usually just stumbled through these open doors, something good usually came from walking through.
I’ve raised four daughters, but I am more fearful of their futures now than when they were learning to ride bicycles on the road, galloping bareback on their ponies across rough terrain, or getting into a car with someone other than me at the wheel.
I want them to dream, want them to be able to imagine their futures in many ways, but that seems less and less likely.
Education is a must these days, but it is not a straightforward endeavour. Universities are going to the bank with the fees they charge undergrads and then using these fees to finance their elite post-graduate programs.
Classes are filled to the brim with undergrads and the competition for most classes to complete popular programs of study is fierce—often delaying graduation from a four-year Honours program to five.
With that comes greater cost, delayed earning, and higher student loan burdens—only to discover that upon graduation, finding employment opportunities is akin to seeking the Holy Grail.
You can’t get hired without experience and you can’t get experience without getting hired. That old song has never been sung louder.
Then enters this concept of internship that is the new form of slave labour, where companies offer internships so students can learn in the “real world” but are considered free labour, having very few learning opportunities, taking advantage of those desperate to gain experience.
Universities are churning out those qualified to teach far in excess of positions that are available, and so we see those with a Bachelor of Education volunteering in schools with the sheer hope of being chosen to be a real-life teacher.
Volunteering is a wonderful concept, an opportunity to put a bit of you into a community and influence its success, but those starting out have rent and student loans to pay off—and groceries to buy.
I have no problem with young people having to take their place at the beginning and not thinking they should jump in somewhere near the top. Most of us had to take any job we could that would help us get ahead; help us get to where we needed to be.
The world of opportunity is shrinking and is open for a smaller and smaller number of our young people.
What’s the answer? I have no idea, but I do know my worrying and losing sleep does not alter the circumstances in any way. People are staying in the workforce longer, far past the notion of “Freedom 55.”
I understand doing so when finances dictate the need, but if it is to prevent boredom or a feeling of redundancy, then step aside and give your spot to those coming behind.
High school guidance departments should feel a greater and greater responsibility to provide informed leadership as to opportunities, paths to take, building skills, making choices. So many students have no idea what opportunities exist in this ever-changing, technologically-driven society.
I am one of the first to applaud programs that allow our children creative expression, appreciation of music and art and literature. They are essential in the development of our minds and bodies.
And I don’t think guidance has ever served a greater need than now. Our young people need a leg up, and they need us to stop perceiving their delayed entry into the real world as laziness or reluctance.
They need our help more than ever.
wendistewart@live.ca

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