A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
When Roy Hodgson announced his England squad back in May, the media immediately focused on the youthfulness of the team, with headlines such as ‘Roy Hodgson backs England’s young guns’ and ‘England’s youth can surprise’.
In fact, this is England’s second youngest squad ever, with an average age of 26. You have to go back to 1958 to find the youngest team, which had just five players over 25.
This time around, England has eight players under the age of 24, including two teenagers – Luke Shaw (18) and Raheem Sterling (19). A teenage duo has only featured once before – Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand back in 1998. This is in stark contrast to England’s line-up in South Africa four years ago, which was the oldest squad in their World Cup history.
Talking to Sky Sports, Hodgson said: “These youngsters have imposed themselves upon me and my thinking because they’ve been so effective and successful for their clubs. There are an awful lot of caps in this 23 so we shouldn’t get too hung on the amount of youngsters. But they deserve to be in there. I’m not taking anyone just for the experience.”
A fair game?
Many are doubtful about how far the team will go, which seems to suggest that the inexperience of the players will ultimately go against them.
And when we step away from the fanfare of the World Cup and shine a spotlight on the world of work, this is the never-ending conundrum that youngsters face when seeking employment.
Organisations are not always willing to put their faith in young people as they lack hands-on experience. But how can they acquire this nugget of gold dust for their CV, if employers tend to opt for older and more experienced candidates?
It’s not always about ticking the boxes right now – sometimes it’s about seeing the potential in an individual and nurturing their talent. Employers shouldn’t necessarily ask, ‘what can they bring to my company today?’. Instead they should question, ‘what can they bring to my company in one, two or five years’ time?’.
And this is exactly what Hodgson has done – he’s acknowledged the individual success stories of the younger players in their respective teams and has plumped for a youthful England squad which, once gelled and honed over the next few years, could be real contenders for the World Cup in 2018. Hodgson is looking to the future – these footballers need to make a debut on the world stage at some point, so why not now?
The way in which we support the development of young people – whether it’s to play football or strive towards their dream career – is of crucial importance. We have to instil changes at the earliest opportunity to ensure youngsters can discover their talents and fulfil their potential.
Creating opportunities for young people and giving them that much-needed foot in the door isn’t just beneficial to the young person concerned, it also helps to support a sustainable future for organisations, too.
In the UK, it’s no secret that we have an ageing population. As more and more people retire from their roles, we need a skilled and knowledgeable workforce that’s ready to step into their shoes to sustain the country’s production of economic goods and services. Young people are ideally placed for fulfilling this need.
In our organisation, we have devised a Grow Your Own approach, creating real work opportunities for young people involved in our projects. We have developed a Young Coordinator Model, in which we employ young people to work with a young person’s steering group to oversee the development, delivery and evaluation of our direct programmes. This is giving young people the chance to put their skills into practice and show us what they can do.
A winning squad?
The jury’s out on how far England are likely to progress in this year’s tournament, especially in light of the results from their first two matches. Apparently, the average age of a World Cup winning team is 26.4 and encouragingly, England closely match this stat.
But it’s not all about age – it’s about performance. There isn’t a secret formula; what counts is a blend of skill, experience, teamwork and, sometimes, a little bit of luck. Something that applies to every workplace.
Here’s hoping we get the mix right and score success…one day.
Youth Focus: North East