It is always difficult for young people growing up. It’s never an easy time, and I don’t think there has ever really been a golden era in which to grow up.
Today’s generation of young people have their own set of formidable challenges to confront as they decide what to do with their future.
The era of relative certainty for securing a job – such as my grandparents’ generation, in which there was a tried and tested path for people to leave school and enter employment, often leading to a job for life, has now ended and will never return.
For young people today trying to get a job is increasingly challenging.
In the face of these challenges, it’s important that young people themselves are able to have a direct say on matters affecting them.
That is why the position of Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) is an important role. Hartlepool, perhaps more so than other areas, has for some time fully embraced this concept.
Shay Miah, last year’s MYP for Hartlepool, did an excellent job and is a hard act to follow.
He deservedly received recognition from the Prime Minister last year for his hard work in increasing the number of young people engaging in politics, putting the town at the top of the league for the highest turnout in the country for the youth campaign.
However, I think that Lauren Howells, this year’s MYP, will be just as impressive as Shay at representing Hartlepool’s young people.
I met with Lauren this week at my constituency surgery to talk through her priorities for policy in the forthcoming year.
I’m pleased that job and apprenticeship opportunities are at the top of Lauren’s list.
I am receiving increasing numbers of emails from young people and their parents and grandparents, expressing their concern that jobs or training opportunities for the young are so difficult to come by.
While I welcome the Government’s commitment to 3 million new apprenticeships in this parliament, the details of how this will be achieved are sketchy to say the least. It’s important that these are proper apprenticeships of high quality, not just cheap labour or a six week course.
Lauren particularly wants to highlight apprenticeship opportunities for young people in care and is backing the campaign from Barnardo’s to ensure that at least 20,000 apprenticeship places of the aforementioned 3 million are offered to people in care.
On the back of meeting Lauren this week, I’ve written to Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, to ask if the Government will back this campaign.
I’m also impressed by Lauren’s priority regarding mental health services for young people.
This is an important area that often gets overlooked.
Young people (and older people, come to that) often don’t have the help they need when it comes to mental health support, leading to increased problems further down the line.
Lauren is working to map what is available and mentioned she found it confusing and at times, subject to duplication in some areas and with no services in others.
I wish Lauren all the best for her year as MYP for Hartlepool. I think she will do a superb job in highlighting the concerns and ambitions of young people in the town and I hope to help her all I can.