How Can We Support The Leaders Of Tomorrow?

With September upon us, a new chapter commences for many of our young people in Northern Ireland. A considerable number will have received exam results, some will be looking forward to the new academic year, and for others, the decision to exit the educational arena and enter the world of work will be taken.

These are new beginnings for our young people, with opportunities to embark on fresh chapters in work or academia beckoning rapidly. However, the reality of the situation is that the state of play in today’s world of work is daunting and highly competitive for young people, and as adults we simply must do more to provide meaningful support.

With competition for careers rife, it’s unsurprising that generation Z is more likely to be registered as unemployed than older job seekers, with those aged 25 and over more able to successfully leverage social networks and employment agencies when looking for work, than that of their younger peers.

Work is about more than just a career, it creates self-worth and can provide the conditions to purchase a home, support a family, or see the world. However, as it stands, a growing number of young people feel far removed from these possibilities, contributing to as many as 1 in 6 now experiencing an anxiety condition.

Research shows that 74 per cent of young people say that wages are not keeping up with house prices, and 43 per cent envisage leaving their jobs within two years, thus underlining the generational economic pessimism which currently exists.

So, how do we better support this generation and ensure we are creating a sustainable economic legacy for the coming years?

From a business perspective, creating a positive company culture is essential in welcoming young people and creating employee loyalty in the workplace.

Lack of training and development is cited by Forbes as the number one reason for millennials searching for new jobs, so seeking to integrate initiatives such as peer to peer learning, mentoring, and formal training should be considered as central to employee development programmes.

Businesses can also support development by investing in youth structures and conveying an image of openness through provision of access to their buildings and facilities, encouraging the development of creative projects and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and social enterprise.

At a local level, there is great work going on in this area at Catalyst’s fintech hub and Ulster Bank’s Entrepreneur Accelerator programme, both of which provide co-working spaces and nurturing programmes in areas such as tech and finance. This spirit of mentorship is also something we strive for in our new Young Women’s Network (YMN) initiative, launched by Women In Business. The programme is available to women under 25 and provides a platform to bring together and empower young women, equipping them with the tools, networks and insight to get ahead.

Connectivity and community are at the heart of the YMN programme, with our focus on successful networking, thus recognising its importance in preparing our leaders of tomorrow to flourish and determine their ideal career path.

As we say at YMN, it’s never too early (or too late) to network, and as we look at our economy of today, millennials already have a significant influence, accounting for 50 per cent of the workforce and set to make up nearly 75 per cent by 2025. This generation is vital to all of our futures, so let’s trust and support them and their endeavours.

:: Roseann Kelly ( is chief executive of Women in Business (