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International Youth Day: Realizing the Potential of the Future Generation: By Martin Johnston

For over 20 years, the world has marked International Youth Day annually on August 12th. The awareness day was designated by the United Nations (UN) to celebrate the potential of young people and bring attention to the challenges they face. At Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Solutions (WMFTS), we recognize the value of investing in the next generation and strive to make our company diverse and future-facing through our offering of apprenticeships and graduate schemes. In the words of one of our current young colleagues, ‘graduate schemes are extremely important for both the individual and the company. They allow companies to develop future leaders of the business with global experiences and unique perspectives towards business challenges’.

The power of young people – from 1990s to 2022

Reflecting the essence of what the day stands for, the concept of International Youth Day was sparked by a forward-thinking group of young people who gathered in Vienna for the first session of the World Youth Forum in the early 1990s. Since then, it has taken on themes reflecting current world issues such as sustainability, peace, education, and global food systems. International Youth Day 2022 focuses on an intergenerational society that embraces all ages – a principle we strive to achieve at WMFTS.

As the population grows, so does the youth generation, currently standing at three billion people under 30 – the largest youth generation in history with huge potential to benefit society. Young people are society’s main agents of change, and our young international graduates, apprentices and team members bring new skills, fresh perspectives, and an enthusiasm that sparks a boost in innovation. ‘I walk away from my desk each day with a new idea or solution towards improving sustainability in our business that a colleague has shared with me that day,’ said Calum, a 2018 graduate who is now working in our Sustainability team.

Youth-led social movements, environmental activism, and political engagement have never been more pronounced today because of social media and the internet. Youth’s power, involvement, and influence have even helped the world respond to the pandemic, slowly becoming a fragment of everyone’s memory today.

As we look beyond the veil of this century, we can see the youth becoming more attuned to other issues such as racial justice, combating misinformation, promoting public health, and enforcing LGBTQ+ rights. Today, a more equitable society can be witnessed with the youth’s active participation and continued response to the needs of their world. It’s especially critical with the rising percentage of the aging population worldwide.

Providing the opportunities to overcome barriers

The 2022 International Youth Day theme of creating a world for all ages tackles the challenge of ‘ageism’, defined by the World Health Organization as “the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) directed towards others or oneself, based on age”. With over 20 years of celebrating International Youth Day, there has been significant progress in the empowerment of young people, but as new challenges continue to emerge, sustained action is needed to ensure the next generation continues to get the opportunity it deserves in a changing and unpredictable world. For example, the coronavirus pandemic has caused huge disruption to the education, training, and early career development of young people. When the pandemic struck in 2020, employers featured in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers cut their graduate recruitment by 15.1% in 2020, and in the US, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 7.8% of employers revoked job offers and 20% cancelled internships. One UK survey of 5,000 graduates reported that 28% of third-year students’ job offers were deferred or rescinded.

Apart from ageism, one of the most significant barriers to youth today is mental and emotional stability, access to healthcare, and financial support. A youth mental health service must be given to those who need it through efficient government programs and efforts from non-government organizations. Recognizing these barriers and providing aid will give the youth a better chance to succeed in the 21st century.

Until governments understand the weight of this issue, the youthwon’t stand a chance to overcome this dilemma, which may sometimes result in suicides. Sadly, today it’s the second leading cause of death among the young, aged 15- 24, in the United States.

Although the situation has improved since 2020, the future still poses challenges. The world’s population is expected to increase by two billion in the next 30 years, and estimates suggest that in order to meet youth employment needs, 600 million jobs would have to be created over the next 15 years. To face this challenge, we need to act now, and at Watson- Marlow we’re taking positive steps through our apprenticeship programmes and graduate schemes. We currently have 21 apprentices across multiple disciplines, including engineering, finance, quality, and business administration, providing qualifications ranging from level 2 (GCSE) through to level 7 (Post-grad/Masters).

The voice of WMFTS international young people

International Youth Day is designed to celebrate, empower, and give a voice to the young people in our society, and we’ve been asking our young apprentices and graduates to share their thoughts.

One clear takeaway was the value our graduates gained from being part of the WMFTS community. ‘The best bit of the role is the connection,’ claimed Suxuan, a graduate Engineer, ‘with guidance and help from line managers, development managers and mentors, grads can gain a global view.’ Joanne, a graduate Global Business Development Operations Manager, also commented on the great mentoring relationships – ‘the network I gained, projects I completed, and mentoring I received all supported me to get where I wanted to be professionally.’

For many, the schemes provide support and direction in finding the best profession in which to realize their skill sets and interests. ‘The rotational nature of graduate schemes makes them the perfect place to learn what you enjoy the most and where your strengths lie in a working environment,’ shared Emma, a graduate Engineer, ‘I’ve been able to develop a plan for the career path I’d like to take and where I’d like to be in five years.’ Calum, a young Sustainability Engineer, agreed, stating that such schemes ‘help recent graduates find roles within a business that are suited to their skills and interests – quickly.’

The benefit is two-fold. Just as schemes and apprenticeships benefit young people, having a workforce that embraces the skills, enthusiasm, and fresh perspectives of the younger generation is an immense benefit to the company. ‘The schemes help young people to grow, which will indispensably benefit the company’s growth’, stated Suxuan.

Where fluid technology solutions meet societal solutions

Young people represent the future and will be the main agents driving the change and innovation we need to overcome the challenges society faces globally. Apprenticeship and graduate schemes harvest the skills of today’s youth to tackle skills shortages, provide tailored qualifications, and provide fresh perspectives to challenge existing ways of thinking. WMFTS is working to expand its apprenticeship offer through the Academy this year – if you have any ideas, inquiries, or comments, please do get in touch, or visit our website to find out more about our schemes.

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