We can’t let hands be idle (Editor’s Notes)

The unemployment rate for young Canadians is too high
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/09/2013

A couple of news stories from south of the border have shaken my faith in humanity a little bit.

The first was the killing of Christopher Lane, a 22-year-old Australian college student who was in the United States on a baseball scholarship.

Lane was out jogging in Duncan, Okla., when he was gunned down by three teenagers who chose him at random.

They apparently did it because they were bored and were looking for something fun to do before the summer ended and they returned to school.

The second was the murder of Delbert Belton, an 88-year-old Second World War veteran beaten to death by two teenagers in Spokane, Wash., in an apparent robbery attempt.

Belton’s murder hit home because my grandfather served in the Second World War. If I can step outside my column to brag about him a bit, his name was Joe Hart and he served as a wireless radio operator with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in Sicily, Italy, and throughout Europe.

He passed away a few years ago, peacefully, but the thought of him meeting his end through violence because a couple of kids — who have done absolutely nothing with their lives — were bored really bothers me. Heroes shouldn’t be killed by punks.

It reminds me of a time when, as a teenager, my best friend’s dad cancelled his daily newspaper subscription because he was sick of coming home after a long day’s work and reading page after page of the bad deeds going on in the city and around the world.

I didn’t understand that decision then, but it’s starting to make sense now.

Random, senseless violence by youth is an HR story. That’s because the unemployment rate for young Canadians is high, too high, and there can be long-term, societal ramifications. Idle hands, after all, are the devil’s workshop.

We all know plenty of young people who can’t find jobs — either summer jobs to help them save for tuition or that all-important first job out of university or college.

It’s demoralizing and the slump has been going on long enough now that some young Canadians are becoming disenfranchised. If they have no hope for tomorrow, then what does it really matter what they do today?

I never had much time as a teenager to be idle. Between scout meetings, sports and part-time jobs after school, it never occurred to me to be a punk, to do harm to others for fun or simply because I was bored.

It’s a mystery as to why these killers acted out, why they thought ending a life was appropriate — either for kicks or because they wanted to steal something.

It goes beyond the mandate of an HR publication to figure it out but we can say one thing with certainty: Hope for the future can nullify some of this nonsense. Having a job, because it’s so large a part of a person’s identity, can provide a feeling that the long-term picture looks bright.

Reader Comments
It’s a bold move for service workers to try to unionize. To me, it looks more like treating the symptoms rather than treating the root cause. As you mentioned, the worst thing indeed is that young people stay in McJobs longer than planned — and that’s really scary.

There is the so-called “point of no return” to more meaningful work after a few years of being stuck in minimum wage jobs, which makes people hopeless. Eventually, they consent to this state of things, making it less likely they’ll move on to careers of their true interest.

Unionization of service workers might cause more harm from the long-term perspective of making more and more young, able and productive folks stuck in the dead-end jobs.

— Kristina Kempf, commenting on Todd Humber’s blog
“If Kramer worked at Second Cup….”

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