Editorial: Today’s youth, tomorrow’s leaders

Last Updated on Friday, 7 January, 2022 at 8:46 am by Andre Camilleri

As we look back on the last year and re-read optimistic predictions the pandemic would be over by now, we can see common themes prevailing, which ultimately will persist into this year. Namely,  the continued fallout from the pandemic: the accelerated redefinition of global supply chains, the increase in global food insecurity, the proliferation of digital “nomads,” and the rise of information—and misinformation—wars on social media. In combination, these areas have indeed reshaped the business operating environment.

 There’s no denying global value chains have become more localised, adapting to logistical and political roadblocks associated with stop-start vaccine rollouts throughout the world. And in a year that saw COP26 reveal the scale and scope of the existential climate crisis we face, green projects have picked up pace across the board, and so must we here too, in tiny old Malta.

Kearney, a global management consulting firm that has long specialised in sourcing, procurement, and operations,  works with more than three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500, as well as governmental and nonprofit organisations have made some valuable predictions for the year ahead, five predictions that may help guide us during this unsettling time. But, unfortunately, the long shadow of Covid-19, and the rippling effects of its latest variants, most recently with Omicron, will indeed shape what happens in the next 12 months.

Let’s take a look at the first in-depth. Firstly they predict Governments worldwide will mount campaigns in 2022 to address behavioural and economic scars left by the pandemic on youth. They note it’s too little, too late. We are risking a lost generation. “From families who have lost loved ones, to workers who have been laid off, to those (especially in developing countries) who have yet to receive access to vaccines—none of us have emerged from the pandemic unscathed. Yet one group, in particular, will face new hardships as the pandemic crisis persists: the world’s youth. The effects of almost two years of reduced socialisation, limited schooling and challenged mental health are only now just coming to the surface. A UNICEF study of 8,444 adolescents and young people in the Latin America and Caribbean regions has found per cent of youth report having less motivation to engage in activities than they had before the pandemic.” This is exceptionally worrying news if you call it that- most of us are very aware of the impact upon our youth, the business leaders of tomorrow. We need to take a long hard look at what we are doing locally to remediate this situation; it cannot be a knee jerk reaction once the pandemic subsides. We need a solid plan in place to support the youth of Malta.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the public and private sectors in multiple countries have developed online mental health support and services platforms—such as Together all, ReachOut, 7 Cups, and UCLA STAND—that have become trusted sources of help and referral for young people and their families. Businesses that focus on building youth mental health are also poised to increase. For example, velocity by Vinaj Ventures found funding in youth mental health start-ups in the first half of 2021 to be 7.5 times greater than the funding allocated in the first half of 2020.

The report argues, with more investment and greater focus by companies and government, some of the wounds inflicted by Covid-19 on this vulnerable group can be tended. But first, we need to see what’s happening here. Will it be enough? No, not nearly. If we don’t want to feel the burn later, it’s time to take a stand locally.

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