The Malta Independent 19 April 2019, Friday

Incentivising and motivating our young people

Sunday, 17 March 2019, 10:14 Last update: about 2 months ago

Martin Cauchi Inglott

For the first time in history, we are at a juncture where parents, who were once challenged in their youth to earn pocket money, educate themselves and in many cases fight for democracy, are now looking at their digitalised offspring becoming adults, and wondering how this millennial generation came to be so, dare I say, indifferent to society. The sad reality is that many young adults are going to be dependent on their parents support until they reach their 30s, because purchasing property has become unaffordable.

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Moreover, the millennial generation, who appear to take a lot for granted, do not have much of a political memory and are taken in by clever marketing campaigns that scratch the surface of what is really going on in this country. The general feeling is that dissent is useless because things have always been done this way.

This generation is at a crossroads and it is our duty to try to make them feel part of society through initiatives and incentives, because ultimately they will have to carry the weight of poor short-sighted decisions taken by a government, influenced by unscrupulous developers assisted by poor planning controls that sometimes lack transparency. 

Though very contentious, perhaps it is time for us to discuss whether our school system should consider introducing programmes which encourage our otherwise conscientious youth to contribute to society in more meaningful ways. The easiest way would be to offer incentives for voluntary work, perhaps even combining these with university credits. But there is also the more unpopular option where the government could consider introducing mandatory civic service between the ages of 16 and 23.

If opting for mandatory service, youth must be offered a choice from a list of programmes so that they can serve in a field about which they feel passionate. Options of service would be primarily civilian in nature, but those opting for a short military adventure, could be offered that as well. Service would have to be paid, but adolescents should have the flexibility to choose whether their seven month commitment is continuous or intermittent within the seven-year window.

One option that might be considered is serving in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with noble causes related to social welfare - such as supporting the old, disabled, orphaned, or poor. Or by supporting NGOs which have the environment at heart, including tree planting, beach cleaning, animal welfare groups, rubble wall building, and heritage renovation, and here Din l-Art Ħelwa comes to mind.

A second option is NGOs associated with crisis management and/or community service such as the Malta Red Cross, the St John's Ambulance Brigade. Occupying leadership positions in the Boy Scouts and Girl Guide Associations are also potential options.

The third option offered might be service in the public sector in an area of their choice, including hospitals, civil protection, or local councils. Alternatively, military service could be offered to those willing, and in the mood, for a bit of adventure, a concept that still exists in five neutral European countries. Military service breeds comradeship, promotes character formation, honing an individual's discipline, leadership qualities and organisational skills. Any form of government service could act as a stepping stone to future careers and add some work experience to a youth's CV. The civic service could also offer our country a contingency force able to deal with national emergencies of enormous proportion such as an earthquake.

Our nation seems to be failing to address environmental and social issues, but we also should not fail to motivate younger generations to feel part of society. Options to integrate our youth are endless, and should be pursued as there is nothing more innovative than injecting young blood into society. Young people are, after all, also responsible for the development of tomorrow's world. It is also about their choices - who they want to become and which society they want to live in. We must give our young people the chance to feel and be part of society, so they can enrich it with both their mental and physical energy, and help mould a better society for their own betterment and future offspring.

 

Lt Col (Ret.) Martin Cauchi Inglott is Secretary General of Partit Demokratiku, and a candidate for the MEP elections. His prior appointments include Commander of the AFM's Maritime Squadron and an EU colonel of the EU Military Staff


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