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Stephen Reno




What's at risk?
Granite Views: Stephen Reno

07/10/14
By Stephen Reno



 Sometimes travel to a distant place can help bring into sharper focus the problems at home.

To travel in Europe these days is to experience at least two worlds. For the tourist, there are the amenities, conveniences and people who make travel comfortable, efficient and memorable, from the flight crew to the taxi driver to the hotel concierge, one meets faces full of smiles and hospitality.
But to pierce this facade of conviviality and to talk more candidly with these folks, one learns quickly that beneath this veneer of normalcy there is a growing sense of frustration, cynicism and even despair. Yes, we are all experiencing in some way the effect of the recent economic downturn, but it is among the young working-age generation in Europe that one encounters the deepest discouragement.  
With unemployment rates for the 20-30 age group reaching 50 percent in some countries, there is a measure of hopelessness that is shocking. Again and again, I talked with young people who are university or college grads in fields ranging from nursing to engineering to banking who are either completely unemployed or seriously underemployed.
Athenian newspaper Eleftheros Kosmos reports the quandary of young Greek university graduates who, because they have not had access to internship opportunities, are routinely passed over for entry-level jobs.
“The folks of your generation just don’t care about us,” Artemis, the server at our Greek restaurant in Athens, challenged me. “Don’t you all understand that if we can’t get jobs, we’ll either have to live off the state ... or turn to some other shady business to get by?” 
Artemis is a graduate of a nursing program. Her university didn’t offer clinical placements for its graduates and so she is stymied. For the moment, waiting tables pays some of the bills. But what’s her future and that of her generation, whether in Greece, Spain, Italy or other parts of Europe?
Indeed, what’s the fate of her counterparts here in New Hampshire? The NH Center for Public Policy Studies’ report “The Silver Tsunami” documents the aging of our state and the policy choices collectively facing us imminently. Programs such as Stay Work Play NH are making inroads raising consciousness of the challenge as well as countermeasures such as lowering student indebtedness, facilitating internships, linking employers with graduates and supporting young professional networks across the state. But what of those who do not go on to university or community college, whose prospects are dim at best? One shouldn’t have to visit Greece to get the message of what is at risk.
Stephen Reno is the executive director of Leadership New Hampshire and former chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire. His email is stepreno@gmail.com.
 
As seen in the July 10, 2014 issue of the Hippo. 





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