With the prospect of a Sixth From College Careers Day looming I’ve been thinking about the challenges facing our school leavers and how to prepare them for a life that we know will be significantly different to that experienced by their parents and grandparents. I use the word ‘different’ because it will not necessarily be better or worse (that, to a large extend, is down to them) but different in the sense that what they see happening now to their parents and grandparents is unlikely to be the same for them.
Many of today’s grandparents express ‘surprise’ at still be alive, fit and well in their 80s – when they were growing up grandparents retired at 65 and weren’t expected to live much beyond 70. This in turn is creating challenges for today’s parents who find themselves trapped between their own parents who behave as if they will live forever and their children – some in their 30s and still struggling to leave home. Working parents see their dreams of a ‘golden’ retirement fast receding as increases in the state pension age and dwindling retirement savings keep them hard at it.
So what should we be saying to today’s school leavers? Here are a few thoughts:
Over the last 50 years global human life expectancy has increased by 50% – while this rate of increase might slow, school leavers should be planning on being around far longer than they might expect.
While self-evident, it is worth saying; if you’re going to be around longer it is a good idea to look after your physical and mental health – you’re going to need your body and mind for longer than earlier generations.
Grandparents tend to hold on to their possessions ‘just in case’ (take a look in their attics!). For them, the longer they live the more they acquire and the more they have the bigger the home they needed for storage. In today’s world marketeers are as eager for us all to buy more – they spend over £20Bn annually persuading us to do so. But with average property sizes getting smaller the new trick is not to buy more but to buy ‘better’.
Establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships is increasingly challenging. With 24-hour news feeds fostering fear and suspicion and families moving away our local communities are under threat and loneliness, at all ages, has reached epidemic proportions. Relationships require an investment of time and energy – plus a willingness to take a few risks. They are, however, the cornerstone of our society and the key to enjoying life.
As we live longer we will inevitability work longer and with this in mind it is essential that school leavers end up with a career they enjoy. A working career of at least 70 years is a long time to be doing something you don’t enjoy! Linked to this is the importance of learning the right skills at school. The world will change significantly over the next 70 years and we will need to learn to adapt and change to survive and thrive. From school we need to learn ‘how to learn’ to ensure we can ‘re-invent’ ourselves and update our skills for whatever is to come.
This short article offers ‘just a taste’ of what’s ahead – the people who will do well are those that have thought through these changes and are ready to react when the world rolls forward.