Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Is it fear of flying or fear of falling?

I write poleaxed by fear.  Ever since my children were born I have developed a phobia of flying. Prior to that I was fearless, I even enjoyed paragliding but since Joe's birth fourteen years ago I have really struggled to get on a plane. The upshot of this is that our family carbon footprint, at least as far as flying is concerned, is pretty low, as we have only flown twice.  I do however believe passionately that social enterprise is a global movement and as such travel to see who is doing what, is a must. If possible we really should compare notes and draw inspiration from our colleagues around the world. That is what organisations like SEL are for, to bring the best examples of social enterprise development worldwide to the door of London's movement, and to promote the wonderful work taking place in the capital to an ever increasing international audience.

It is social enterprise day in South Korea tomorrow so I am off in a couple of hours to address a social enterprise symposium and give a few interviews. Without doubt London is seen as the global capital of social enterprise, but I know for a fact that South Korea is a real hotspot for social enterprise and I am looking forward to seeing how they do it there.

My mouth is dry, my heart is pounding and I feel sick, and let's face it, silly. But thanks to Diazepam I will get on that plane. Let's hope once my knock out drops kick in, it's the right plane.

While I am gone, the lovely SELittes will be preparing the launch of the social enterprise Route Map for Local Authorities and getting more young people fantastic jobs in social enterprise through our Future Jobs Fund program which, because it started early on in the year has been allowed to run until the program's termination early in 2011.

The statistics, out today, that there are 70 graduates applying for ever job vacancy stopped me in my tracks. For those who haven't had time to think about it, this is very, very bad. Firstly, that statistic refers to graduates, what about all those young people without further education?  Secondly those young people are starting their post education life with heavy debts and profoundly limited job prospects. This means that even if they had an entrepreneurial idea and felt like working for themselves, with a student loan hanging round their necks and no assets,  they are unlikely to be able to borrow more money to develop the idea. Lastly, it means that having failed to get many of last years graduates into jobs we are on course to end up with the highest levels of graduate unemployment in the developed world, authors of our own lost generation.

So what we need are jobs, and businesses to create those jobs if we are to capitalise on the creativity, optimism and energy that most young people possess in spades. What ever the Coalition Government come up with in terms of getting young people into inspiring jobs, we at SEL will do all we can to help.  Through the Future Jobs Fund we have learned 3 important things. Firstly, if social enterprise is singled out for job creation, it performs well.  Secondly, that financial incentives to create jobs work well for social enterprises because they are typically under capitalised. We have found that once the social enterprises take the young people on, they offer them permanent jobs at the end of the program because by then they have become invaluable. Lastly, and this is key, there are job opportunities in social enterprise and a will from ethically motivated employers to do their bit.

The recession is a global  phenomena so I am interested to learn more about how South Korea is handling their economic setbacks,  particularly in terms of jobs creation.  If my experience of other South East Asian economies is anything to go by, they will be thinking long term and planning not just 5 years, but 2 generations hence.

There are some things that Governments should prioritise no matter what, and I think employment for young people should be right up there at the top of the list. After all without young people like my nephew Tom, graduating with a solid 2:1 from Newcastle University this week, getting his opportunity, who is going to pay the tax that covers health, education and the retirement for folk like me? Each generation needs the last, and letting the young fall away from the bottom of the ladder ends, history tells us, badly.

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