Young people – the price tag of ambition


Landing the right job is the single most important goal for many young people, according the recent research. The right job is an achievement above any other significant life goal, such as completing higher education, owning property, starting a family and even getting married.

Importantly, young people believe they should have achieved this major goal by the time they turn 30, with 60% thinking, along with the dream job, they will be married by this age. Yet it’s not just a belief – it’s a conviction: with 53% confident that these goals will become a reality.

And why not – what’s wrong with showing faith in the concept of meritocracy, when this millennial generation are better qualified than their parents were at the same age? Faith is a good thing. Only this faith has no solid grounding. Look at the evidence. Yes, the millennials are better qualified than their parents and yet, as national figures testify, are more likely to be single and are less likely to own a home than their parents at a similar age. The average income for a young person is £19,278. Reality is a kick in the teeth.

Even millennials on decent pay struggle to live up to their expectations because most are unable to raise enough capital to live comfortably – and independently – and also save for home deposits and a rainy day. Savings for most are near zero because of low and stagnating wages, coupled with high rents.

Faced with this reality, the ambitions of young people seems tragically delusional – a potent cocktail of hubris and optimism. They have just emerged from a ruthless recession and yet remain positive about their prospects and opportunities for progression, prompting the question of whether they are in full knowledge of the facts, or rather, are they blindsided to some of the harsher realities regarding employment and careers in this post-recession reconfiguration of business?

Today’s economy is very good at creating low-paid jobs but not the well-paid jobs we all aspire to, creating widespread insecurity amongst those already in work. Low paying industries are charging ahead with offers of flexible employment and zero-hour contracts, with critics scolding businesses for supposedly taking advantage of recent under-employment to push wages to an all-time low.

Over the last five years, the number of jobs in the lowest paying industries – food and beverage – grew by a quarter (227,000), with a weekly industry average of £224. The UK’s is suffering from an inability to create enough well-paid jobs, which is having a negative effect on people’s living standards, reducing productivity and stifling the national economy. When pay is not keeping up with the cost of living, Britain is being squeezed.

Are our morals and values at stake – is the notion of a meritocratic nation farcical? Yet who will turn the tide? At a time when government appears to lack solution , will it be the nation’s business leaders who make a stand and begin consciously investing resource into employing and developing the youth of today?

With an ageing workforce increasing with every year – 8 million over 50s in the workforce, a million over 65 – there is a narrowing in the recycling of jobs. No one wants to leave when there is no money to fund a peaceful retirement. Savings are down, with many preferring to store their wealth in property rather than pensions. As a result, very few elder employees will voluntarily give up their jobs when they aren’t being pushed, leaving a deficit in the number of available jobs for new workers to take on.

Rightly, young people understand that finding the right job should be prioritised because only in achieving the right job will they earn enough money to fund other life-ambitions, such as getting married, owning property. Without the income, all other dreams are unachievable. Investing their time in a career is the best way out of a bad situation. The tragedy for many is that good jobs are becoming harder to come by due to a increase in low wages and people staying in employment for longer.

Employers wanting to change the situation should consider talent embedding into their business talent schemes and talent pools to identify, recruit, train and advance today’s young workers. Where there’s good HR, there is always hope.

Perhaps increasing social mobility is quickly becoming the new black in CSR terms.