17 Sep 2012

C4 Class of 2012: The 'one million' challenge

It is painful even to write it – one million young people unemployed. One million 16- to 24-year-olds are unable to find a job.

For forty years I have been involved with a project in central London working with vulnerable and homeless young people in that age bracket. I worked at the New Horizon Youth Centre for three years before I became a journalist. In these four decades we have never known anything like it.

Our centre is attracting more and more educated young people – more and more employable young people with fewer problems than those we normally see, who have many additional difficulties. Increasingly, employment is the single issue that brings young people to our door.

Following this “can-do” season of the Olympics and Paralympics – each of which generated a brief spike in youth job opportunities (mainly filled by students in their long vacation) – there is an even bigger challenge on the block. It’s a challenge bigger even than the Olympics themselves: It is the battle to address and retrieve what some have casually tagged the “lost generation”.

Channel 4, via its Battlefront youth campaigners, has been tackling this issue for some time; and this Wednesday, 19 September, it will host a big event aiming to raise the profile of youth unemployment. Economics Editor Faisal Islam and I are chairing the C4 Class of 2012 event, to be held at Channel 4 HQ, involving young people and a panel of influential voices – David Miliband and the CEO of Sainsbury’s, Justin King, are two of the panellists.

It’s a theme we on Channel 4 News are going to give special emphasis to as well, this week and beyond. It concerns me as a father, a bit-part charity activist, and as a journalist.

If you want to put a question to the panel on Wednesday, you can do so by tweeting @channel4news using the hashtag #c4classof2012 or emailing c4jobs@itn.co.uk.

Together we built Olympic/Paralympic glory. Together we need to challenge the reality of the “lost generation” and find lasting solutions.

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