One of the most meaningful events organized at the triennial World Congress on Health and Safety was the establishment of the first International Youth Congress. It was my honour to be involved with such a valuable initiative and to have the opportunity to introduce these young participants to the World Congress at the symposium I co-chaired and helped organize.
The youth were exposed to health and safety issues and principles through education and interactive exercises directed by Christopher Preuße of DGUV (German Social Accident Insurance) in Germany. For me, it was reassuring to dialogue with our future leaders and to hear about the issues that are moulding the way we will be responding to a new generation of concerns and expectations. Not only are their ideas shaped by their generation, but also by a factor that industry to date has failed to respond to – their diversity. Industry has categorized them all as “Gen Y” and assumed generalizations in addressing their needs. We must recognize that this generation preparing to enter the workforce is far more diverse than the present workforce. In fact, just amongst the group that we had attending the Youth Congress, were students from countries such as Azerbaijan, U.K. and Japan – all with different perspectives and experiences to share, but with a common goal of a better future for their peers.
The challenge to employers is recognizing the immense potential of this diversity and reassessing their “one size fits all” assumptions to occupational health and safety programs for new employees.
My interactions with this group of committed students left me reassured that the solutions to tomorrow’s problems lay within today’s youth. Giving them a forum to share their experiences with other youth from all parts of the world will be the catalyst for innovative change in the future. That is why I was pleased to hear commitment to hold a second International Youth Congress from all those involved.