More than 140 people including representatives from youth organisations and colleges across London packed Parliament Tuesday night to discuss the destructive implications of youth unemployment on their lives. The event was organised by the 99% Campaign, a youth-led initiative, run by the international charity IARS, that aims to dispel negative stereotypes of young people, and promote their involvement in decision-making processes and civic life.

The panel included a carefully selected group of cross party MPs, young people and youth organizations. Dr. Theo Gavrielides, IARS Founder and Director, opened the discussion and invited Labour MP Sarah Champion and Conservative MP Tim Loughton to offer their thoughts on tackling youth unemployment. The debate was enlivened by contributions from the new Justice Minister Simon Hughes, who highlighted the importance of work experience and social support at the earliest stages of education; suggesting that career suggestions should be showed to students in year 6 or earlier.

Young people highlighted the limited opportunities which were available to them, after leaving education, and called for a curriculum fit for the 21st century. Key discussion topics also included limited success of apprenticeship schemes for young people living in the UK and the absence of school support to gain future employment; with a strong emphasis on the lack of good career guidance and support at both high school and university level.

Labour MP, Sarah Champion said: “In Britain today, over a million young people are still unemployed.  We need to act urgently to change this, or we will be faced with a generational problem that manifests itself well into the future.  Our young people are our future business leaders, engineers, and scientists so it great to see initiatives like the 99% Campaign champion the voice of young people and provides them with the much needed space to express their views on issues that really matter to them. I am supporting this event because I strongly believe we must act now to help them get the skills and experience to develop the career they deserve.”

Conservative MP Tim Loughton said:The high levels of our young people without a job or lacking good education and training opportunities remains one of the greatest challenges facing our economy despite the progress that has been made recently. But it also brings many social challenges. This is why the 99% percent campaign event and its work are so important in bringing together young people with politicians and key youth organisations who can help find practical solutions with the potential to make a real difference.”

This event has mirrored the issues highlighted by previous events on youth unemployment run by Bite the Ballot and the campaign to get Personal Accounting onto the national curriculum. The campaign for Personal accounting was a great success and their curriculum suggestions will be placed into the curriculum by 2015. Yet many other suggested changes are being ignored and although many professionals are calling for a more varied curriculum, it is actually going in the opposite direction, pushing all students into academic studies. Under Micheal Gove the arts have suffered heavy financial losses, while the curriculum has come more theory based.

During the event, the topic of youth voting was also raised, which emphasis the belief that politicians would listen to young people more if we voted in higher numbers. This makes perfect sense and again was the mirror image of an event run by Bite the Ballot months before on a similar topic suggesting how many people are thinking in a similar way.

It must be said however, that young people often do not vote because they do not understand why it is important that they do so, which is strongly due to the sever lack of political education in schools. This statement is strengthened by several youth orientated organisations discovering that young people care about certain specific issues, which could vary from the environment to education; they just don’t link those specific issues to politics and voting, which of course affects all issues in the UK.

The event was an incredible display of support for solving the issue of youth unemployment, yet did they, unlike with all other events of this nature, uncover a hidden problem? The link between youth unemployment and youth voting numbers was never made with such clarity before. This link could be the explanation as to why pensions are more important to government that youth issues and more precisely, the reason why youth unemployment was allowed to rise to such incredible proportions.

If then youth unemployment is linked with youth voter numbers, then should one not naturally call for political education in schools?

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