THE Covid pandemic will create a level of unemployment for under 25s not seen since the 1980s, affecting 100,000-140,000 young people. Positive lessons from the past youth unemployment schemes must be harvested for the common good. The failures must not be repeated, especially the exploitation of young people by firms taking the money and not delivering quality training, meaningful work or real jobs.

Covid brought us new ways of thinking, working and learning. The worldwide important cultural and social changes, many led by young people, should be added to the new agenda for employment and social change.

The inspirational thinking of young people shows us the way; from Greta Thunberg to the Black Lives Matter campaigners, March For Our Lives campaigners to control arms sales in America, and Malala Yousafzai’s education for girls campaign.

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It is laudable that Nicola Sturgeon has announced a “Youth Guarantee” aiming to ensure that young people do not carry the “economic scars” of coronavirus into adulthood, with a £60 million budget for 16- to 24-year-olds, guaranteeing an opportunity at university or college, an apprenticeship, employment and work experience, or participation in a formal volunteering programme.

Funding for apprenticeships is on offer, but an apprenticeship that does not lead to a real job is worthless. The collapse of business in retail, manufacturing, hospitality, leisure, arts, transport, night culture and caring services needs more than funds to create more than short-term, zero-hours-contract work for those hit by this crisis.

We are in the middle of a worldwide recession, with the climate change horror story looming. I propose that we see all of this as an opportunity to harness the innovative ideas, and energy of youth, supporting their uninhibited, can-do attitude, to create more enlightened ways of tackling unemployment.

Let’s invest in the creativity of young people by allowing them to lead initiatives to address youth unemployment, in addition to what the government is already planning. This could be a funded “Staycation Gap Year” equivalent to that enjoyed by our educational high-flyers. Young people could choose the themes like climate change, the environment, health education, the elderly, social care and the arts. We could make use of the threatened closure of outdoor centres and training facilities of the Scouts, Adventure Scotland and others to run “residential think tanks” for young people to brainstorm their ideas. Such residential experience would offer fun whilst you learn.

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The Prince’s Trust, which for years successfully delivered impressive training for the least employable of young people, could be asked to assist. Professional youth workers, whose funding has been decimated, have the skills to engage young people. Use the health theme to develop health education workshops for young people on obesity, cooking skills, mental health, addictions or sexual health. That was all successfully done by peer educators in the 80s and 90s.

The environmental theme could engage young people in tree planting, canal clean-ups, magnet fishing to clear rivers and canals. Neglected parks, playgrounds and landscaped areas could be improved and young people who want outdoor work could learn the skills to create new business.

Engagement in social care may lead young people to consider careers as carers, nurses, or work with the disabled or children. Youthful entertainers could concentrate on music and drama to improve the mental health of others. Young people with technical skills in using social media could teach older people, so combatting loneliness. Food banks, clothes banks, book banks and toy banks could be good sources of educational work placements for the young.

We need to think out of the box, seeking solutions to problems we never knew we had. One additional funding stream could be the National Lottery, which by decreasing its prize money levels and increase funding to charity could ring-fence new funds to invest in youth.

Max Cruickshank (retired youth worker)