The landmarks signalling life transitions for youth leaving school and entering various phases of life are changing—a fact that needs to be recognized in order to build better communities, according to a new report.
Canada’s youth are coming of age in an era of complexity and uncertainty because the predictable trajectory that guided the lives of their parents is gone, says the Canada’s Vital Signs 2012-Vital Youth report.
“The linear path from school to career, home ownership, and family has disappeared,” says Ian Bird, president and CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, a national network of over 180 community foundations which released the report.
“We want communities to recognize that this is ‘the new normal.’ We need to work with youth to find better ways of preparing and supporting them for a journey that is less certain and more fragmented.”
The linear path from school to career, home ownership, and family has disappeared.
— Ian Bird, Community Foundations of Canada
Despite progress in society and technology, today’s youth face difficult hurdles such as meagre job opportunities and crippling debt loads.
Upon graduating, young people are burdened with debt that can take years to pay off, while having little chance of full-time employment.
The youth unemployment rate is double the national average, and the number of summer jobs in 2012 hit its lowest level since data was first collected in 1977, according to the report.
Baby boomers hanging onto their jobs longer or coming back to work after retirement are also presenting competition for youth entering the work force.
As well, many young people are delaying the start of post-secondary education, either to improve high school grades or save for tuition, which has risen up to 200 percent in some provinces over the past 20 years, the report said.
In addition to what for many can be a dire financial situation, a rising number of young people are also grappling with depression. The report said a staggering 3.2 million of 12- to 19-year-olds in Canada are at risk for developing depression.
But growing up in an era of rapid change has its positive side, and the current generation has new skills and strengths.
Today’s youth are tech-savvy, have access to vast networks, and are passionate about public policy and global issues. They also place high value on personal relationships and aligning their values with the work that they perform. This helps them be more prepared for the challenges they face, the report said.
It’s important for society to recognize the changes and take steps to use young people’s skills and contributions, ensure their continued health and well-being, and close the gap between those with and without opportunity, the report notes.
“[W]e need to come to grips with the gap between who is thriving and who is being left behind. The consequences of inaction are too serious—for young people and our communities,” Bird said.
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