EmploymentScience & Tech

Preparing our Youth for the New Economy

In 2011, McDonald’s hired 7,000 touch-screen cashiers. What’s even worse is that BMO will now be rolling out a “robo-adviser” service, an online portfolio manager for small investments. This seems to be great as our economy becomes more technologically advanced and efficient, but it also means that the world is changing. The traditional jobs that were once offered are now disappearing.

Preparing our Youth for the New Economy

An international study published by McKinsey & Company, an international global consulting firm that works with various stakeholders across numerous sectors, determined that the unemployment rate of youth (ages 15 – 24) is double the standard unemployment rate. In April 2013, the unemployment rate for youth living in Toronto was 16.1%, which is more than double Canada’s rate of 7.4%. The youth unemployment issue is estimated to cost Canada $23.1 billion in lost wages over the next 18 years, according to a report by TD Economics. But why are these numbers so high? Is our education system not preparing our youth for the work economy effectively? If so, why?

According to the McKinsey & Company report, 47% of youth believe a post-secondary education will improve their chances of gaining employment. 50% of youth, however, regret their field of study upon completion of their degree or work in a field that is not related to their studies at all. These numbers indicate that our youth are not being provided with the proper guidance or they are simply unaware of what they want as a career in the future.

As children, we are taught that we can be anything we want to be. However, at an early age, we do an assessment that predicts which career path best suits us. We are constantly trying to dictate the career path of our youth rather than acknowledging them for their strengths and allowing them to understand how to maximize their capabilities. For that particular reason, it is important that we shift from a teacher-centric approach to a student-centric approach in education. Technology has changed the way our youth is able to access information. Rather than having our educators stand in front of a classroom and lecture, we should be encouraging creativity and curiosity to enable our youth to explore their passions. Our youth should be the main priority and we should help them find their strengths and passion, and guide them to a career path that they can succeed in and love.Preparing our Youth for the New EconomyIn Canada, 45% of employment comes from high-growth startups and less than 11% (McKinsey, 2013) of our economy involves manufacturing. These statistics showcase the need for innovation and for our youth to adapt to the new economy. Youth may not be working as cashiers at McDonald’s or financial advisors at BMO, but they can become the programmers or electronic engineers we need to fix those machines. They can design new software and programs to improve the functionality of these new technologies. Our education system must equip them with the right skill sets and tools for them to accomplish those tasks.

The Internet of things, defined as a technology driven world where inanimate objects are connected through technology, is projected to be a $14 trillion economy by 2020. While this presents a great source of employment, Canada continues to receive a “C” score in innovation since we no longer thrive in manufacturing and we are viewed as consumers of technology and not creators.

Most recently, one of the 5 key findings of the Career Ready report published March 2015 authored by Prof. Ken Coates and commissioned by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives states:

“While Canada has a skills deficit, it has an even greater entrepreneurial deficit. Our country does not support, promote or cultivate entrepreneurs to the extent that it should… We need more creative and risk-taking young Canadians, preferably people whose energy and resolve will remain connected to Canada.”

So let’s teach our kids how technology works rather than how to play with it. Let’s teach our kids how they can become creative problem solvers in this new world. Let’s give them a brighter future by allowing them to explore their creative freedom and go beyond the ideation phase. Let’s get these kids to start making! Start playing with technology and understand the concept of “Failing fast and failing forward”. Let’s get our kids to fulfill their potential! Don’t discourage our kids from being entrepreneurs, but help them discover their entrepreneurial mindset so they can be innovators and intrapreneurs (entrepreneurs within large corporations that redesign processes and seeks out new opportunities)!


  • David Kwok

    Passionate about youth innovation and entrepreneurship. Experienced in designing engaging programs that provide soft and hard skills.

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