Tag Archives: youth

Generation (Hard) Y(akka)

7 Jul

When I applied for the overseas volunteering opportunity, I was struggling to find employment as a recent double-degree graduate. I completed my studies at the end of 2008. Just after the GFC unleashed itself on the world.

It’s tough being a Gen Y graduate. There are more university graduates in the jobmarket than ever before. Competition is fierce. It was particularly so after the GFC. No one was hiring.

An article written by a member of Gen Y, or, as I would call it, Gen Hard Yakka, struck me. I’ve reproduced some of it below:

Young people have simply never known what proper job security is. We are so acutely aware of how difficult it is to find a job that when we eventually get one, we work incredibly hard to protect it and remain wary of how fleeting it may be.

We entered the workforce when a job was a rare privilege.

Some of us work with the fear of being fired and accept that as legitimate because, well, that’s just the way things are these days. If you’re not the best at your job then employers are entitled to get someone who is.

This attitude shocks baby boomers who entered the workforce before unionism went out of fashion along with bell-bottomed jeans. To baby boomers, the casualisation of the workforce is a one-fingered salute to workers’ rights. To generation Y, it is an entirely acceptable and pragmatic reality of our uncertain financial times.

Influenced by an endless conveyor belt of strikes and memories of glorious unionists during the 1960s and ’70s, boomers have always believed their job is their right and no one would dare sack them for having a few off days and a sickie or two. They never experienced the distress of being a qualified, ambitious, industrious graduate desperately looking for a job in a threadbare market.

Generation Y aren’t just harder-working and more enjoyable to work with because they’re young and fresh. We have an appreciation for a job that our parents [baby boomers] simply don’t.”

I agree in large part with the above views. I hope this post didn’t come across as a huge whinge, especially as I feel very privileged to have steady and interesting employment right now.

I’m merely pointing out, as this young lady has, that a young university-educated person in Australia has a precarious short-term future.

University graduates in Vietnam have better prospects of gaining employment (corresponding to their profession) than in Australia. The competition is far too high in Australia.

However, new occupations are emerging, such as social media analysts and consultants, which did not exist 30 or even 10 years ago.

Hopefully, positions in the developing labour market will be filled with bright young minds which will bring about transformations of existing structures, systems and the status quo.

Stay in school, kids!

26 Jun

LANGUAGE WARNING. Proceed with caution.

One in the air for the people that ain’t here,
Two in the air for the father that’s there,
Three in the air for the kids in the ghetto,
Four for the kids who don’t wanna be there,
None for the n-ggas trying to hold them back,
Five in the air for the teacher not scared,

To tell those kids that living in the ghetto (that the n-ggas holdin back) that the world is theirs’!”

In Vietnam, a large proportion of parents cannot send their children to secondary and tertiary schools – particularly in the rural areas. Males are generally prioritised over females. Thus, not many girls go past Year 9.

My relatives are of that demographic.

They struggle as farmers in land that is sometimes infertile, hardly managing to put their children through school, and girls marry early to gain some level of security.

In Vietnam, many of the university students see the USA as the promised land- for the perfect lifestyle, for the perfect education.

Yet kids in the USA have to fight their own battles to stay in school.

They need positive role models like rapper Lupe Fiasco to encourage them to value their education.

So no matter what you been through,
No matter what you into,
No matter what you see when you look outside your window,
Brown grass or green grass,
Picket fence or barbed wire,

Never ever put them down,
You just lift your arms higher,
Raise em till’ your arms tired,
Let em’ know you’re there,
That you struggling and survivin’ that you gonna persevere.”

Above all, children need a sense of hope – whatever the circumstances they are in.

Humans in an ant heap

20 Jun

One of the main projects I was working on during my year volunteering was to build up the network of environmental clubs and movements around Vietnam together. This seemed like not too much of an ask considering that the Internet connection is faster there than in Australia.

Young Vietnamese are commonly on Facebook, Yahoo Messenger and on their mobile phones texting. I’m talking about young Vietnamese who are educated and have access to computers, not those who live in the rural regions.

So I thought that connecting the enviro clubs in the major cities was fairly easy if I set up some blogs, online forums, a central portal website and a Facebook page.

Wrong.

Face-to-face interaction is key to building up strong, active networks. Thus, the organisation arranged many workshops and a large forum with international NGO funding to gather forty key enviro youth from around Vietnam to network and share ideas.

Online communication can only supplement relationships which are grounded in face-to-face contact.

And so it is here in Australia as well. Meetings are important, and emails can assist to distribute meeting minutes. Email exchanges can’t replace physically meeting in the same room to thrash out ideas, discussions and make decisions together.

Tertiary education by distance is simply not the way to go. Getting the on-campus university experience is still the common and preferred manner of going about one’s tertiary education. By merely sitting amongst one’s contemporaries and mixing with other bright young minds is critical. It also involves debating, challenging each other, getting your ideas put to the test and testing others’.

Lectures, tutorials, group work.

All face-to-face interaction which is conducive to rigorous learning. We all know that there’s increasing use of online learning tools.

”But a few decades of high technology can’t trump millions of years of evolution,” Glaeser says. ”Our species learns primarily from the aural, visual and olfactory clues given off by our fellow humans. The internet is a wonderful tool, but it works best when combined with knowledge gained face to face, as the concentrations of internet entrepreneurs in Bangalore and Silicon Valley would attest.”

That was taken from an article written recently by an eminent Australian economist, Ross Gittins, who explores the allure of cities and how they make sense economically for many people. He reviews the urban economist, Edward Glaeser’s new book.

“”Cities enable collaboration, especially the joint production of knowledge that is mankind’s most important creation. Ideas flow readily from person to person in the dense corridors of Bangalore or London, and people are willing to put up with high urban prices just to be around talented people, some of whose knowledge will rub off.”

Cities magnify humanity’s strengths. Because humans learn so much from other humans, we learn more when there are more people around us. Urban density creates a constant flow of new information that comes from observing others’ successes and failures. Cities make it easier to watch, listen and learn.”

In Vietnam, the urban-rural divide is very clear and the wealth is ultra-concentrated in cities. Apart from the greater focus by governmental funds, foreign aid and commercial hubs, people live live like sardines side by side and top of each other. The dynamics and rapidity of the flows of information, business and trade is incredible.

The rural communities are literally left in the dust.

An elephant of a story

22 May

I came across The Story of Stuff shortly before arriving in Hanoi to kick-off volunteering with youth on climate change education. It came as a surprise that the first Youth and Sustainability workshop I attended screened The Story of Stuff and had breakout discussions about it afterward.

The story is a frank and scathing description of the natural and human exploitation and waste that results from a linear system of production and consumption of goods. Plundering of the developing world to feed the bloated appetites of the developed world is one key component. The author of the Story calls for a cyclical system of production and consumption which supports the natural environment as well as societies.

This Story is undoubtedly educational, thought-provoking and a great eye-opener, especially for young people who are prone to increasing their consumption. However, I kept on wondering, do these teenagers and young adults blame the developed countries for disproportionate consumption of resources and exploitation of the developing world? How do the youth of Vietnam think about Nike factories in their country? They must be angry at the West, right?

During the breakout discussions, they talked about reducing their own consumption and living greener. However, the bigger issues weren’t discussed. I still don’t know if that was intentional or not.

For me, the elephant is still in the room.

Live the high life! Be a volunteer!

1 May

On the volunteer program I joined up to, the program’s organisers said quite frankly that the professional experience gained by us will be greater than what we contribute to the organisations we work with overseas. Of course we have valuable skills, a unique perspective and the desire to do good. However, it takes more than that to make a lasting difference.

So the organisers said that for us, the experience will be fantastic and invaluable. Try your best in the circumstances you’re in, and be happy with that. Some of us were on 6 month, 9 month and 12 month assignments. These were considered short-term assignments, as some people work in the development industry for over 10 years.

Two articles were provided as links in one of the recent posts, no brainer, all gut-ter. I agree with most of the points made in both articles. We don’t lose too much by volunteering. It’s fantastic for our careers, sense of self, understanding of others and how the world works, and contributes a lot to the development of us being individual thinkers. Many people go through university being taught how to think inside prescribed frameworks. With overseas volunteering, we can take a step back and think about things through different angles.

It was also definitely a no brainer for me too. I knew I wanted to take this opportunity to work on climate change education with young adults, in an emerging space globally and in the developing world. I was curious as to the young ‘green movements’ that were forming in Vietnam, and I wanted to get in on the action! It was hard convincing my parents that it was a good career move, but in the end, I made my decision regardless and jetted off over the horizon!

-Huong

Youth setting up their exhibit at the "Hanoi & The Environment" exhibition

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