This blog-post is an effort to get all the input that has been coming to me in one place, so that others can use it and maybe even pick it up and run with it. Please be patient, the more you read the more it will make sense why I have posted it here.
Tonight I am taking my son off to the inaugural StartUp Weekend on the Central Coast. Here's the link http://www.up.co/communities/australia/central-coast/startup-weekend/6777 although I don't know how long that link will stay active. #StartupAusCC may be another way to find out more.
Initially the motivation for going was helping my son meet local business people and graphic designers and for him to hopefully get inspired by seeing how his skills can be used in real world situations.
The first part of the weekend is the pitch, where anyone can get up and pitch a business idea for 60 seconds.
Well and good. But what would motivate me enough to devote a whole weekend to being a team member for a business idea? Hmmm.
Sure I have ideas on the backburner, a website consultancy for creatives (reviewing existing websites for artists and writers, suggesting improvements, getting initial websites started), setting up a small publishing house for local children's book authors. But they don't really need interdisciplinary effort.
However there is a situation that lots of local people face, which needs to be addressed, about tertiary education.
Over the past two years I have seen the fees for TAFE courses quadruple. Cobbling together $400 is one thing, but now needing around $2000 for a Certificate III course is a much bigger ask. How many young people are going to miss out on vocational training because they don't have a comparatively wealthy relative to help them out? Yes, there are 'going into debt' options. But the risk of getting it wrong is so much higher than it ever was before.
Even a year's Diploma study, lowest rung university study or private college study is running at a minimum of $8000 per year. That's a lot of money to pay, or get into HECS debt over, with no guarantee of employment at the end of it. And we are expecting our 17 and 18 year olds to make those decisions based on a few subjects at school and very little life experience. Granted, a few grow up with a passion for a defined career path (teacher, nurse, paramedic, hairdresser, plumber) but many still have no idea at the end of Year 12. Some still have no idea several years after leaving school.
History tells us that unskilled young people without the dignity of regular employment are going to sooner or later find themselves in trouble – poverty, gangs, lawbreaking, depression etc.
Helping young people discover their talents and their vocational career path is not just important for them and their families, but also for the safety and welfare of the communities they live in.
Doing something about that would be worthwhile, and need an interdisciplinary approach.
Perhaps these two blog-posts may help understand where I am coming from http://www.societyofsaints.net/blog/listening-to-the-call and http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/5906/death-and-resurrection-of-an-urban-church
What I do know is that most career counselling seems to be little more than listening and reflecting back. Just as I learned so much about God's ways of bringing couples together to marry by asking how they first met; recording the ways people found their first job, how they found a long term career, and what they regret they didn't do career-wise would be exceedingly helpful. Human nature doesn't change much, just the date, as family historians are fond of saying. Gathering actual case studies would be valuable so that a youngster can say: 'Hey, that person sounds like me, maybe what they did is worth investigating'.
The something would have to be organized on a non-profit basis, so that it could be accessed by the most vulnerable. Fundraising would be necessary, and also a good thing because fundraising can bring the members of a community closer together.
Grants to help pay for education will be necessary. Referrals would be best from places like the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Salvation Army because they tend to help whole families and can notice youngsters with aptitude. Maybe even a process like the Australia Day awards would work, where anyone in the community can nominate someone they think is deserving.
But such grants would be the start of a relationship, not just a handout or a hand-up. At tertiary places of study students hand in work, essays, projects, etc on a regular basis. That work should be showcased and seen by the whole community. Something like an end of term exhibition, 4 times a year, at local libraries or church halls or surf clubs, where everybody gets to feel pride in their achievements and local business gets a chance to look at local talent. Throw in a BBQ or sausage sizzle and get people taking and meeting each other.
We also need to give people a chance to 'have a go' before they commit to study. Firstly as a vehicle for discerning whether you are interested in that type of work and secondly as a reality check for what that kind of work is actually like. So often our young people go to tertiary study and come out with some preparation for what is needed at the higher echelons of a profession but no idea what the entry level work is going to be like.
Schools used to organize Work Experience weeks. Whether they still do, I don't know, but 2 days here and 3 days there at several enterprises would be very helpful – with some kind of low level payment for labour. Employers would need to commit to freeing up their time to mentor people through the experience. Feedback forms from both sides would be essential, a la Caroline Chisholm.
The profession I was trained in had a rather enlightened approach. I don't know whether it still does. But companies would offer working scholarships to those going through the uni course. There was a weekly payment, and work experience during holiday times. The profession committed itself to training up young people as a service not just to the company they worked for but also to the whole industry. They understood that everyone benefited. In contrast it seems that these days employers expect everyone to be fully skilled before they employ them and do an absolute minimum of in-house training.
I think we will see lots of young people deciding that tertiary education is no longer worth the time and expense to invest in it. The only way to cope with this is to bring back some kind of master-apprentice relationship. Often I have heard it said at funerals, 'I did well in this profession, because this person showed me the best way to do it'. Learning like this doesn't come from books, but from discussing real world situations and how best to deal with them. Facilitating relationships like this will become increasingly important I think, especially if we ever have to face a new Depression era.
This passage from Laudato Si has stayed with me:
"In some places, cooperatives are being developed to exploit renewable sources of energy which ensure local self-sufficiency and even the sale of surplus energy. This simple example shows that, while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference. They are able to instill a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land. They are also concerned about what they will eventually leave to their children and grandchildren." Laudato Si 179a
And this excerpt as well, from an Interview with Pope Francis on Portuguese Radio 8 Sep 2015 http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-interview-with-portuguese-radio-station-44460/
"Work with unemployed youth. I think here it's urgent to do so, above all in religious congregations that have education as a charism, but also laity, lay educators, to create small courses, emergency schools. So, a young person who is unemployed, studies cooking for six months, or studies to be gas or heating technician for six months - so long as rooves keep breaking - or to be a painter. So, with this skill they always have the possibility of finding work, even part-time, for the moment. It's doing what we call a "changa," I don't know how…(journalist asks about the meaning of "change") "Changa," yes. It’s occasional work, right? A good "change" And with that not everyone is unemployed. But today is the day. It's the time of emergency education, which is what Don Bosco did. Don Bosco, when he saw the amount of young people who were in the street, he said that education is needed, but sending the children to middle school, the humanities, no. Trades. So, he prepared carpenters, plumbers, who taught them to work and they had to earn a living. And Don Bosco had that. And now I want to tell an anecdote of Don Bosco. Here, in Rome, close to Trastevere, where it was a very poor area, but now it's the popular area for youth to "go out," right? Ok. Don Bosco passed by there. He was there in a carriage, in a car, I don’t know, and they threw a rock and broke the glass. He stopped and said: "This is the place where we have to establish ourselves." That is, in the face of an aggression, he didn't live it as an aggression. He lived it as a challenge to help people, boys, youth, who only knew how to attack. And today, there is a Salesian parish here which forms youth and children, with their schools, their things. Well, this - returning to the theme of youth, right? – what's important today is to give emergency education about some trade so that they can earn a living."
We need to help each other find that purpose for which God gave them unique talents, as Blessed John Henry Newman so eloquently puts it:
"God knows me and calls me by my name.…
God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission—I never may know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next.
Somehow I am necessary for His purposes…
I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good,
I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth
in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments
and serve Him in my calling."
OK. There's all the input I can recall.
Here's my 60 second pitch:
"TAFE fees have quadrupled in the last 2 years, and a single year of tertiary education now costs a minimum of $8000 with no guarantee of employment at the end of it. That's a huge gamble for any student and their family, and a lot of debt to carry. I think we should start a local non-profit with these aims: grants to students with expectations of exhibition of work, ongoing community involvement and celebration of their achievements; career advice through case studies of how actual people found their long term career; facilitation of short term work experience and facilitation of informal apprenticeships and mentorships. I'd like to see it begin on the Woy Woy Peninsula.
All I have is the need and the idea, help me make it happen."
Please pray that if God wants something like this to happen, that it all comes together over this weekend and beyond.
St Joseph, pray for us.
St John Bosco, pray for us.
Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us.
St John the Baptist, pray for us.