The “Strawberry Generation” might be better than we thought.

When I read through the “Youth Conversations Publication 2019”, many thoughts ran through my mind. One of the segments that caught my attention was “Top 10 Life Goals That are Very Important to Youth.” This came from the results of the 2016 National Youth Survey where 3,531 youths of diverse backgrounds, aged between 15 and 34, were surveyed.

What surprised me was that “Earn lots of money” was ranked 5th on the list of top 10 life goals that were important to youths. It came after “Home ownership”, “Strong family relationships”, “Learn/acquire new skills”, and “Successful career” in this exact order. Has it always been like this? Were these the concerns of the youths in the 80s? 90s? 00s? I might not have any answers but I would guess it wasn’t always the case.

Youth these days are different. They are exposed to more information; they are bold and hungry. They have stronger beliefs, bigger dreams, more positive views of life, and perhaps less to lose. They might operate very differently from previous generations, or even my generation which is not that long ago.

I remember the last time I went to a career fair or similar kind of event was probably a good 15-20 years ago. And if my memory did not fail me, I was probably only there because I was made to go there by my school. And those career fairs had almost nothing that interested me. It was nothing more than plain looking booths with people from various industries giving out flyers that held no appeal to me.

Things are remarkably different now. I met some hundreds of youths recently during “LIT DISCO”; a career discovery marketplace, which was launched in collaboration between Young NTUC, the youth wing of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and the Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) by SkillsFuture Singapore.

I was one of the speakers at the “learning café” which was part of the career discovery marketplace.

There were three zones at the marketplace – Discovery Zone, Learning Zone and Employers Networking Zone where youths had the opportunity to go through mock interviews, bite-sized learning modules by LLI and network with prospective employers. These programs made the event a lot more enticing. Everyone took something back at the end of the day. I am pretty sure because they also gave away goodie bags with some yummy FairPrice house-brand mixed nuts which I happened to be munching on while writing this. (Sorry, I digress.)

Most of the youths whom I’d spoken to that day signed up for the event themselves. Most of the participants found out about the event via social media ads as well as via word of mouth. Youths these days are a lot more self-motivated. They will move out of the comfort zones to seek what they want in life. The Skillsfuture Festival 2019 is still ongoing from now till 11 August 2019. You can check out their website for more upcoming events!

The traditional method of forcing-things-down-your-throat is no longer a solution with youths of today. Gone are the days when I would just agree with everything my teachers said in school. As a career mentor who works closely with youths, I’ve learnt that respect is something the youths demand. We must treat them like equals, listen to them, understand their needs, explain things to them without sounding condescending, and in short, treat them like an adult.

Their demand is not unreasonable. The youths of today have opinions, they have ideas, they have a voice that longs to be heard. Some might be a little idealistic, but hey, we’re all young once? And the world does need dreamers, and dreamers who dare to dream big. And that’s also where a good mentor or someone with more experience can come in handy. The mentors can cushion their dreams with some realities of life.

More importantly, we ought not stop the youths from striving for something that’s bigger than them right now. It is the drive they have in them that they want to fight for something better and the empathy they have for people around them. They are confident. They know they can do something and they do not want to be treated like kids, like how youths were treated in the yesteryears.

People are changing, and industries are transforming rapidly and skills in demand are also changing. Everything’s happening an expotential rate. I am glad that youths see the importance of “learn/acquire new skills” as more important than “earn lots of money.” I guess they also figured out that the importance of having new skills is a lot more sustainable in the long run as agility and relevance are the currencies that talk, these will bring the “lots of money” that the youths crave for.

The future of Singapore looks pretty good to me after all.

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