Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen - 07/08/2019

Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen -

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“Adulting” is only hard without community

Growing up can be tough. But last month the British Government took cushioning the blow to new extremes when they announced the introduction of masterclasses, or workshops, “to prepare students for independent living.” To my horror I found that this wasn’t a one-off and “Adulting Classes” where students learn how to sew, cook, and turn on a washing machine, have also grown in popularity in the United States. The existence of these classes, however, highlights the importance of helping our young people transition well from youth into adulthood.

The existence of these classes, highlights the importance of helping our young people transition well from youth into adulthood

Leaving school and entering employment is a key marker of the shift from youth into adulthood. It’s an important and often difficult transition to navigate, but for some it’s a transition that isn’t navigated with much success. According to Statistics New Zealand, every 1 in 8 people aged between 15 and 24 aren’t in employment, education, or training, or as policy makers refer to them, NEET. This group causes real concerns for politicians from across the aisle and has led to multiple initiatives to provide pathways into education and employment.

There is no easy answer. That doesn’t mean we should give up.

While at first glance the NEET population might just sound like a bunch of kids who haven’t figured out what they want to do with life, it’s important to recognise the risks that come with this title. For example, research from the Ministry of Social Development has found that, “early and protracted periods of unemployment may have detrimental effects on young people’s well-being and on their long-term labour market prospects.” Moreover, the OECD state that “while causality is difficult to establish, starting off in the labour market as unemployed, regardless of one’s level of education, almost “guarantees” employment problems in the future.” It’s good that our policy leaders and politicians are concerned by this population. Receiving the title of NEET also increases that person’s risk of poverty both in the short-term and in the longer-term.

Of course, multiple governments have attempted different initiatives and approaches to the NEET population with limited success, because there is no easy answer. That doesn’t mean we should give up. We need government to be creative in finding supports and programmes that will assist people into the workplace or education and training courses. But we also need to recognise the unique role we play in assisting young people transitioning into adulthood. We need to recognise that this isn’t just a political problem, it’s a community problem. The presence of “adulting classes” suggests our families and communities have become thin, that we’re failing to interact with one another enough to pass on even basic skills necessary for adult life. Teaching someone how to book a dentist appointment should fall to parents, friends, and communities, not to a government department.

We need to recognise that this isn’t just a political problem, it’s a community problem.

Thankfully, I haven’t heard of any New Zealand based “adulting classes” yet, but let’s not follow the example of Britain. Instead, let’s recognise our own role in teaching the next generation and thickening our communities – even if that means simply making sure a neighbour’s child knows how to do a load of washing.

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Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen -

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