Essential business engages with youth

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Youth. They sure are different from how they used to be, right?

It really wasn’t long ago that our elders and betters thought that about us.

“You’ve got it easy. In our day, we had to share a pair of shoes among six of us and walk a thousand furlongs to school, in 19 feet of snow, with nothing but a potato in our stomachs and a bit of No8 fencing wire to keep our shorts up”. Yada yada yada.

Since Socrates, intergenerational worthiness has been debated.

The very fact that each generation bemoans the next tells me that’s more a product of ageing than a degradation of youth.

Today youth are protesting climate change on a global scale. Just a little back in time, we did the same on apartheid, the Vietnam war, suffrage .. since, you know, forever.

As the World Economic Forum pointed out this week, “young people coming together in joint action has served as a major engine of social transformation throughout human history”.

But you don’t have to look past Christchurch’s Student Volunteer Army to see that for youth, joint action isn’t limited to protesting.

Historically, youth has delivered social transformation in many powerful ways – including entrepreneurship.

Take Henry Ford, for example. Apprenticed at 16, he built his first horseless carriage at 29.

Or Bill Gates who wrote his first software programme at 13, launched Microsoft at 20 and was a billionaire at 31.

And, more recently, Mark Zuckerburg who started Facebook at 19 and was a billionaire at 23. Not to mention that more than a quarter of the world’s population are active monthly users on his platform.

Youth is a driver of transformation and it always has been.

I think the only meaningful intergenerational change is that transformation is being driven exponentially faster.

That’s why it’s vital that business engages with youth – and we need to be doing it earlier than ever before.

Dunedin has pioneered a programme called Yes (Youth Employment Success) which connects businesses and youth in unprecedented ways.

It’s an award-winning platform that delivers social transformation of the most meaningful kind; empowering people to develop relationships that will make our businesses and our regions thrive.

You can see the Dunedin example at youthemployer.nz.

Check it out and when the opportunity knocks on your door (which it will) all you have to do is say, yes.