Are we undervaluing the youth’s potential?

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Kurt Sevillano

Kurt Sevillano

The success stories of the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have encouraged some young adults in the United States to drop out from college and set-up their own companies. They forego college in the belief that education is a life-long process, not a four-year program.

However, the case in the Philippines is different. Students entering college are usually clueless about what majors to take, and even those who have long left the university’s walls are still in a constant search for their life’s purpose. In fact, most of the graduates I’ve spoken to do not know what a career is—they know they have a job and they believe that’s what college prepared them for.

This raises the question: Are we merely churning out graduates with no goal but to graduate and get a job after?

As a young man myself, and having just graduated from college three years ago, I feel that the problem lies in how society perceives the role of the youth. Either they are not constantly reminded to make something out of themselves or society has no idea of what their role is other than succession.


Most of the teens I’ve met have no sense of the future because of the lack of responsibilities given to them. Having everything decided for them, they are unintentionally raised to believe that life just happens and they have no control over that.

This also fails to help them develop their thinking skills and increase their level of maturity.

And when a young man would speak of his goals and plans, the elderly would most of the time say, “Bata ka pa kasi” (That’s because you’re still young) in a condescending manner, as if youth were a disadvantage. This sets the tone of expectations: one cannot do much when one is young.

Companies have their share of the blame. Stories I’ve heard about internship often involve
running errands, photocopying and stapling documents, or in some cases, prepping some manager’s coffee. This disregards converting many years of college education to good use in favor of meaningless tasks.

And in a country where seniority and age are traditionally taken to correlate with wisdom and expertise, companies do not expect much from the youth when it comes to problem solving and brainstorming. We respect the elderly for their age and discount majority of the thoughts of the young as foolish exuberance, if we ever ask them at all.

But how young is young and how old is old? The accessibility of college education has helped us produce more graduates today than at any other point in history. However, without harnessing their true potential, we are creating a big pool of educated mismatched workers but nothing more than that.

From a long-term perspective, society and companies should define what role the youth will play. After all, the young today are tomorrow’s parents and managers. It’s a scary thought to know we haven’t prepared them for that.

Kurt Sevillano is a lecturer at De La Salle University teaching management and human behavior in organizations. He may be reached at kurt.sevillano@dlsu.edu.ph.

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