Young people need better prospects - not criticism

Social enterprise must help young people find jobs, says Rod Schwartz of ClearlySo

Rodney Schwartz
Rodney Schwartz

In my last piece for Third Sector, I wrote about the UK riots this summer. I suggested that, rather than an aberration, they were closely linked with the "spirit of the age", in the economic opportunism they manifested. I also noted that Britain was not on its own - these were part of a growing worldwide phenomenon and represented widespread dissatisfaction with the ineptitude of western political leaders.

The violence is spreading. I spent a few days in Italy last month and sat in stunned silence as the TV showed 250,000 people in a violent outburst. They burned cars, they assaulted police and their vehicles, and they threw rocks, stones and other missiles at the police and buildings in Rome.

In Bologna, the local office of the Bank of Italy had been the scene of an attack a few days before. The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, whose name also cropped up in my previous piece, had recently survived another vote of confidence, leaving many Italians in despair.

Given the economic circumstances of this country, and more than a decade of mismanagement and worse, is an outburst so shocking? Related protests took place in New York, London, Berlin and Madrid. They were generally peaceful - but for how long?

The rioters were mostly young. The Italian press condemned the protesters, as did much of the UK press this summer - at least initially. Yet, while one understands the need for public order and has sympathy for innocent victims, we also need to reflect on the circumstances facing the young in the west today. Their leaders have bequeathed unto them economies that teeter on the verge of bankruptcy. After three decades in which my generation lived well beyond its means, our youth have been presented with the bill, knowing it will only grow as our unsustainable pensions become due - not to mention the likely healthcare costs of looking after us in our dotage. To face all this, and also have little prospect of finding a meaningful job, is bound to bring out feelings of rage.

These problems are complicated and not easy to solve. Nevertheless, at ClearlySo we have recently taken a small step towards getting meaningful jobs for some young people. In partnership with the Roundhouse Trust, we will hold a one-day Social Jobs Fair at the Roundhouse, one of London's premiere concert venues, on 12 November next year.

Social enterprises will be able to find full and part-time staff and large corporates can recruit for roles in their 'social areas', such as corporate social responsibility and community investment. This enables us to help find human capital for the social sector and fulfils the Roundhouse's youth outreach objectives.

And ClearlySo is hardly alone. For example, the National Consortium of University Entrepreneurs is working hard to engage students from all over the UK in entrepreneurship. Live UnLtd is a youth initiative of the large UK charity UnLtd. All these will not solve the problem, but they feel far more productive than constant criticism of, and confrontation with, young people who have legitimate gripes

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