British Millennials and Generation Z want to work abroad, confirms British Council and Demos report

British Airways jet taking off

These are anxious times, especially for younger people. Not only is the world pulling in different directions, we now have missiles flying over Hokkaido.

In Britain, its Brexit looming over the country rather than a long-range missile, albeit hanging like smog. It’s toxic, we know it’s there, but we can’t make out its features and what to with it. Even the government is seemingly flummoxed.

A new report, Next Generation UK Survey, produced by think tank Demos for the British Council in September 2017 shows that young people in the UK are worried about Britain’s position in the world, and what it means for their future, revealing that:

  • 68% of young people believe international experience and a global outlook are essential for their personal goals
  • 57% are positive about the effects of globalisation on their own lives
  • 13% have worked abroad, but 56% are ambitious to do so
  • 10% have studied abroad

The report recommended protecting and securing opportunities for young adults travelling, working and studying abroad:

in order to enable all young adults to achieve their potential, opportunities for young adults to engage internationally need to be protected in the Brexit negotiations. Furthermore, due attention must be paid to increasing opportunities so that those who do not typically benefit can participate in them….

These objectives are given weight by evidence that interacting with other countries can be beneficial in a number of respects (though research is fairly limited to the higher education context). For example, research has shown that students who undertake a year abroad during their undergraduate degree are more likely to pursue postgraduate study, secure better paid jobs and have higher incomes; and are less likely to experience unemployment. In addition to making an individual more committed to their degree and enhancing their CV, studying abroad can have a marked impact on personal development, improving independence, confidence, communication skills and other intercultural skills – with often greater benefits ensuing when the cultural difference between the home country is wider. Young adults who study internationally often become more cosmopolitan, taking more of an interest in international affairs; they travel more and are more likely to live in another country later in life.

These are sound recommendations. Studying abroad worked for me: I was an Erasmus student in Madrid during more fortunate times, though I later headed East to Asia, rather than to continental Europe, to live.

The aspirations of young people also echoed words made by Sir Martin Sorrell, who encouraged young Brits to acquire work experience in China.

It’s clear that young people are concerned about what’s coming next,  but are nonetheless eager to explore new horizons. This should be given priority in Brexit discussions, rather than trivial considerations like the colour of the new British passport (which is beyond stupid).

The Next Generation UK Survey is part of the British Council’s Next Generation series, which focuses on the attitudes and aspirations of young people, and uses data gathered to inform policy.

The survey’s data came from almost 2,000 18-30 year olds polled by Ipsos Mori, focus groups with 80 young adults across the UK, analysis of young adults’ use of social  media, and a policy roundtable with stakeholders focused on youth engagement.

Calls to guarantee post-Brexit residency for EU and British nationals #SharedEuropeanFuture

Brexit is showing more twists and turns than the average Shyamalan film.

While the wrangling and posturing continue, concerns remain over the EU nationals working in the UK and the “Brexpats”, the British nationals based in other EU countries. This is understandably causing anxiety and frustration.

But these are early days in the grand scheme of things, and we have the power to shape Brexit – hard, soft or bendy. As such, there are growing calls to ensure that the rights of residents are recognised.

the3million, a movement started in Bristol to preserve the rights of EU and British citizens alike after Brexit, published a new research report in July to promote reform and help allow EU citizens in the UK to continue to live normally post-Brexit.

The report shows how the “permanent residence” application process creates barriers for EU citizens to claim residence rights after Brexit.

Also in July, the British Council – an organisation with considerably more clout – addressed a set of eminently sensible recommendations to UK and EU leaders, Our Shared European Future. Among the recommendations was a call to guarantee post-Brexit residency rights for both British and EU citizens.

Other recommendations included:

  • A post-Brexit agreement for education, culture, science and research to facilitate movement
  • Cultural and educational permits to allow people to move with ease between the UK and EU countries
  • Guarantees that UK institutions and individuals remain eligible to access programmes such as Erasmus+, Horizon 2020, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions and Creative Europe
  • The preservation of opportunities to work and study abroad
  • Proactive engagement of youth in Brexit decision-making

The British Council’s recommendations are endorsed by more than 450 institutions across Europe, including the British Museum, Tate and V&A in London; the Creative Industries Federation; the National Gallery Prague; and CERN (it was CERN that led to the creation of Sir Tim Berners Lee’s World Wide Web, with the rest being history as they say).

Individuals in support comprise leading scientists and artists, including that man off the telly: Professor Brian Cox, Sir David Chipperfield, Mark Wallinger, Claudie Haigneré and Professor Iain Stewart.

And you can endorse these too, of course, by signing the British Council petition here.

It’s absolutely vital – and common sense – that EU residents in Britain and British nationals in Europe are heard and accounted for,  fairly and with respect.

Young Brits encouraged to acquire China work experience

Great Wall of China

Big advertising boss Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and CEO of WPP, has posted a rousing article on LinkedIn, To Move Upward, Move Outward, about the importance of acquiring overseas work experience, China specifically, explaining that:

In a world becoming smaller every day through globalisation and digital connectivity, we need people who can demonstrate they have what it takes to succeed in this environment. Increasingly, employers are looking for knowledge of markets beyond the West, an international outlook and the willingness to be mobile.

Sir Martin was writing as a “Leading Light”, or influential figure who has benefited from China, championing the British Council’s Generation UK: China Network, which recently celebrated its first birthday. The initiative aims to connect all UK nationals with China experience so that they continue and deepen their engagement with China. Specifically, it supports student employability and skills development, and provides a platform for Brits to further their business, academic and entrepreneurial connections to China.

As part of the campaign, the British Council will be hosting an event this Thursday on opportunities to study, work, teach or complete research in China. If you are flirting with the idea of moving to the Middle Kingdom, head on down to the British Council’s London HQ on 13 October. The two-hour event will start at 11am (full details and registration here). Who knows where a stint in this extraordinary country might take you?

British nationals with China experience already, meanwhile, can apply to join the Generation UK: China Network on LinkedIn, now numbering almost 2,500 members, to connect with other China alumni. Joining the network also provides access to high-profile speaker events, Alumni Awards and career opportunities. Sounds hen hao to me!

Tragedy of Millennials? International opportunities can transform lives

Wingtip - image credit: Ralf Roletschek

In a thought-provoking piece for the FT, Sarah O’Connor described how Millennials are too insecure to push for a raise. She suggests, by way of example, that two decades of uncertainty in Japan has instilled fearfulness and risk-aversion in the nation’s youth. O’Connor adds that many young people have bent over backwards to persuade anyone to give them a foothold:

In the US, the proportion of college graduates working in non-graduate jobs rose to 44 per cent after the recession.

In the eurozone, about 40 per cent of workers aged 15 to 29 are in temporary jobs that typically provide little training or progression.

But can the same be said of workers with international experience? An excellent report by the British Council (disclosure: I used to work for them, but I had no involvement with the making of this report) called A World of Experience reveals, among other stats:

  • 85 percent of those studying or working abroad for 3 months or more, or travelling for more than 6 months, described themselves as confident in their ability to meet new challenges
  • 82 percent of individuals with international experience were confident in their ability to adapt to new and unfamiliar situations
  • Respondents with international experience were also slightly more likely to describe themselves as resilient
  • Over half of those with university-level experience abroad (53 percent) reported that it helped them to get a job that interested them

Others agree. Writing for The Guardian, Felix Marquardt recognises that “young people are hurting and they are hurting on a global scale”, and warns of a generational crisis. The answer? “We need people to move.” He even suggests a global youth work visa that allows young people to work for up to two years in the country of their choice.

Finally, I can attest that grabbing opportunities abroad can be beneficial, as an expat with several years overseas experience. I’ve heard of an English-language teacher in China (teaching English can be well-paid, and there is demand) learning Mandarin, making connections and becoming a project manager. Imagine their value in the global labour market now!