However, that future is rarely in their hands.
For those who got the grades they wanted they face their first year of playing £9000 tuition fees on top of rising maintenance costs to attend university, for those who didn’t, they face the prospect of becoming part of the one in six young people classed as Neets- or ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’.
The choice is stark and bleak for most young people today as they bear the brunt of the recession and the Coalition government’s spending cuts. For many it is easy to fall into despair and disaffection; fulfilling the Catch 22 where they feel politicians do not listen to them therefore they are less likely to vote or engage in politics. As such, politicians do not think they should ‘waste’ their political energies courting a vote that they believe doesn’t exist.
However there are those among this generation that are determined to change this. Joseph Hayat, young entrepreneur and former member of the UK Youth Parliament spoke to The Independent about the launch of the Sick Campaign, a social media campaign launched this summer to instigate a “cultural shift” on a “mass scale” in attitudes to young people as “the severity of the issues affecting young people are horrendously misunderstood”.
Hayat, 19, is better known from his stint on Channel 4’s ‘Battlefront’ programme where he and Hafsah Ali launched the ‘Ready4Work’ campaign aimed at getting young people out of the job centre and into work. The Sick Campaign, however, goes one step further. It was inspired by the marginalisation young people feel from society and the political process. It hopes to achieve a range of measures aimed at encouraging young people to ‘aspire’ to more by removing the road blocks in their way. Their Facebook manifesto includes proposals to make work experience placements mandatory for all school students and to freeze tuition fees for the foreseeable future.
These aims, which Hayat believes are realistic, are designed to tackle what he feels is a huge crisis in confidence amongst young people. He wants to focus on the “mental wellbeing of young people”, giving young people a chance to explore all their options and as well as something to aspire to.
“The spirit and the fulfilment of a job or fulfilling an aspiration has cannot be taught, it cannot be driven into people.” Hayat said
“They have to find that themselves and you have to help them to find that.”
He says that there is too much pressure on young people to perform academically and the binary spilt between those who go onto further education and those who are pushed into apprenticeships and the workforce at 16 is too strict. He added that the recent measures by Education Secretary Michael Gove were “a kind of 1980s approach to education that should be left in the 1980s”.
He believes that this tension between the old and the young has been exacerbated by the recession but the problems have been brewing for years. The advances of modern technology he believes have “widened the gap between our parent’s generation and our generation”.
However, he adds, “the issue can be overcome but it’s about communication. As I say, often it’s not that there is a massive amount to change it’s that we just need people to talk more. I don’t think the conversation is happening, and that is aided by false promises by decision makers. It’s really a damaging set up.”
It is this “toxic socio-economic set up” that Hayat thinks has created a situation where young people no longer have any faith in society and underlying all the anti social behaviour our generation has been accused of is “boredom” and “a lack of aspiration”. He says that the riots last year raised a number of questions about the perception and reality of life as a young person in the UK today. He admits that part of causation for the riots was issues with policing but it was also young people’s frustration with a culture that fosters materialism into young people but doesn’t give them the opportunities to realise these aspirations:
“They were materialistic purely because they had no opportunities available to them yet they are being rammed down that you’ve got to have these trainers, you’ve got to have this computer, and you’ve got to have this phone. And we all have it, we all want more money right; it’s that constant dilemma that goes through all of us. It’s a toxic set up.
“It’s really the fault of large corporation who want to profit from us but do not want to aid the young people. If you want to push the idea that a pair of trainers are fashionable, then why not push that but also push that they’re a responsible brand that give young people opportunities; that avoids the frustration.”
The Sick Campaign is aimed at trying to prevent that level of frustration from ever boiling over into violence again, it hopes to encourage young people to channel their anger into something productive and take it all the way to Westminster to create lasting and positive change.