What does the future of Britain look like?

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Most would answer that question with, “pretty grim”, judging by the state of things as of today – the recession predicted to bite us again next year and countless public sector workers striking to stave off pension cuts.

And as chancellor George Osborne admitted last week, one in five 14 to 16 year olds in this country is not in education, employment or training – an increase of 137,000 from last year.

This “lost generation” of long term unemployed, as they have been dubbed, was a topic for discussion at an event I went to last week run by The Media Society and The Future Foundation called “Reporting the Future”.

While responsible reporting of future technology and trends was the main thread, panellist and PR stalwart Gill Brown brought up that by simply looking at the state of things today we can start to envision shifts that will take place to support this group of people.

Businessman Richard Branson has already responded to this and called for changes, such as cutting university degree time in half, allowing companies to be more flexible with part time employees, and the creation of a government body to fund loans for people to start their own businesses.

Indeed, at last week’s event Brown mentioned that more microfinance schemes could be a form of enterprise that could cater to this potential lost generation.

The Government’s reaction so far, as Osborne has revealed, is to dedicate £1 billion towards initiatives such as funding 300,000 work experience places over the next three years and subsidising 160,000 six month placements to the tune of £2,275 each to hire an unemployed 18 to 24 year old who has been on benefits for nine months.

Osborne’s intentions are recognisable but his agenda lacks creativity and real foresight – will viable jobs be available once all those temporary placement periods finish? It isn’t clear, and if not, it simply delays a further situation of ongoing unemployment.

There is an opportunity for brands to take this insight to contribute to this problem by being the providers and facilitators of long term, productive solutions. As I wrote in this feature about the university sector, corporate brands such as KPMG, McDonalds and YouGov are already incorporating this into their talent generation and marketing strategies.

Brands should begin thinking about their role in providing work transition schemes without waiting for the government subsidy to kick in. And if they aren’t doing so already, marketers can begin using this as positive collateral.

Inspiration can be taken from innovative start ups, such as Skills Hive, which allows people to showcase their skills to be viewed by potential employers. Social enterprise Blue Dot rewards people for volunteer work and this idea could be adopted by the government to combine volunteer credits with benefit payments.

Micro-apprenticeship schemes run by individuals rather than companies may even begin to emerge. For example, freelance journalist Janet Murray has hired a young apprentice to assist her with her work while learning about the profession firsthand.

We have already written about brands’ public service activity and this week’s cover story looks at home service brands – both trends that have emerged in response to recessionary impacts.

The next marketing and CSR trend to follow suit will be brands that can take the lost generation under their wings while gaining kudos for it. Is your brand equipped to do this?

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