In Scotland, 2018 is the Year of Young People (#YoYP 2018); one of the Scottish Government’s programme of themed years with activities and events focussed on participation, education, health and well-being, equality and discrimination, enterprise and regeneration, and culture for those aged 8 to 26.
What have young people got to offer? The most valuable input on policy and politics to date.
During January, presenting and leading a workshop with pupils at Gordonstoun School in Elgin on the Future Leaders Connect Program, the students identified issues. Solutions were found through googling ‘gov.uk’ and ‘policy’ to see what was already being done to tackle the issues they identified, and they built on top of existing approaches.
One thing was clear; when youth groups are engaged, the future is far less threatening. Young people live the policy and political decisions of the current establishment, and they are best placed to address gaps and issues. When they are listened to, they provide solutions because they are already 5 to 10 years ahead of their political representatives in identifying issues.
Situating Scotland in the rolling tide of a connected world as part of a global citizenry where sharing is expected as a foundation for peace and civilisation is scary for a generation who benefited from privileges and protection that is now actively being shared.
#YoYP 2018 is a platform for young people, and a celebration of innovation, energy, and excitement for what young people can bring to the table when enabling environments for engagement are activated. Kirsty Blackman, Member of Parliament for Aberdeen North, recently encouraged me just to vote; vote for anyone – why? When enough youth vote, politics must represent them.
Last year I had 5 jobs and the 16 to 25-year olds I met were not disengaged, they were working, hard. They were at work in college, alongside minimum wage jobs, and being teenagers. One 17-year-old received minimum wage [£5.60] and was so capable, he was working across the leisure and restaurant departments. Another young lady I met, worked Sundays at a café – without a contract, paid cash in hand since starting work – a year prior.
Now, these are not my stories to tell - but at what point do they emerge?
They emerge when you speak to and dedicate time and space to young people. 2018 is the Year of Young People, and there’s a lot of fun to be had in designing a future, hand in hand with the Scottish Government. Scotland already has a global identity through multiple levels and stakeholders; the cross-party group on International Development at Holyrood, had Bill Gates in attendance during February. The Chair, Lewis MacDonald Member of the Scottish Parliament for North East Scotland, is explicit that it serves the interests of all to ensure that young Europeans grow up as full citizens of Aberdeen and Scotland.
I’ll say it one more time for the people in the back; young people have the most valuable input to make on policy and politics to date. Scotland’s Year of Young People is one step in engaging the young people, and it needs to be done, because the future will come and - at least - with the input of the young it may be fun.