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Could Social Media help fix ‘Broken Britain’?

March 5, 2010 Leave a comment

There is a crisis going on in the UK with youth unemployment. Depending on which reports you read, there is between 750,000 and nearly 1m 16-25yr olds unemployed fueling fears of a lost generation of jobless. The need to tackle this issue has become a top priority for the incumbent government and should be near the top of the agenda for all parties as we run up to the general election.

A report to Becta from the Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE) at London Metropolitan University  on The influence of new media technologies used in learning on young people’s career aspirations throws up some interesting insights, some of which are below:-

  • “that young people may not understand that technologies, including new media technologies – are increasingly becoming a key feature of labour market sectors that fall outside of the creative sector, or that general or ‘soft’ learning skills that can be developed through the use of these technologies (such as problem-solving, communication, risk-taking) are of use in other more traditional occupations.”
  • “most students felt that learning to use technology would provide them with greater opportunities in the future labour market. As a Nottingham focus group pupil said, ‘technology is everywhere now so I’m sure I’ll have to use a lot of the skills that I’ve learned in a lot of what I do’.”
  • “Our findings suggest that young people in areas identified as ‘disadvantaged’ are using new media technologies in both their formal and informal learning and this can enhance students’ enjoyment and motivation in their learning. We also found that a large number of these students expressed a real interest in pursuing careers in the creative sector which use new media technologies. However, their enjoyment in learning and their career aspirations were constrained”

Social Value

Various current schemes (many are mentioned in the Becta report) are in place to encourage industry to help create jobs and training programs but I would like to come at this from a different angle and look not at the reams of ‘qualified’ people coming out of higher education with degrees or qualifications that can’t find employment, but the ones who have fallen out of education, the under privileged, the disadvantaged ethnic minorities and the socially excluded. This is a wider issue that has other, far more harmful ramifications from a socio economic perspective. These are the people who are associated with crime, gang life, anti-social behavior…the kind of stuff that is fueling the ‘broken Britain’ echo chamber. I would like to ask and explore whether the rise of social media and the need for businesses to understand the new communication tools and techniques to connect with their customers could have a bigger role than is currently being realized.

Social media, and I mean this in the widest possible sense ie Social Networks, mobile, gaming, file sharing, music production etc has a near 100% penetration rate among the youth of Britain. What I find more interesting is how this group of people actually use these tools, predominantly to communicate – precisely the thing that many corporate organizations are trying to figure out. Mass media may have lulled them into a false sense of security in terms of how to engage with their customers, how to talk to them and how to get them talking to each other. Social media has exploded into this area and all of sudden the need to understand the language and tactics of the social web have real business value. There a new forms of business literacy today that did not exist two or three years ago and having grown up with, and become proficient in them makes some ‘kids’ more qualified than many ‘grey hairs’ in industry

Raising Self Belief

If by showing, previously disillusioned, excluded young people, that the skills they have developed by growing up with and using social technology on  daily basis, can be transferred to the workplace and more so…are actually in demand by media, technology and communications companies, we might be able to raise their personal expectation and self worth levels. I am not saying that this could directly translate to jobs and a reduction in those all important employment figures (which I understand would be a sizable hurdle from a project funding perspective) but it may have an impact on other areas of society . I think the promise of employment at the end of a scheme would be setting the bar way too high in terms of outcome, what I think is needed is to raise some of these young people’s aspirations just enough to make them think they aren’t as worthless as they may have been told and so that maybe, they can see a route to employement but initially I think the challenge is to get them somewhere constructive, off the streets and try and open a window of opportuinity. Whether that becomes a door and one that they eventually can walk through is much further down the line…but you need to start somewhere.

There seems to be no current government schemes in place (unless I have missed something, and please correct me in the comments if that is the case) that will tackle this group using social media as the cornerstone, so its an area I am keen to explore more. I would welcome any help, research, pointers, general chit chat ,contrary opinions or stumbling blocks!

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