It is the day after the result of the EU referendum and I am sitting here in Kosovo reflecting on the outcome. I have an interesting perspective on this having spent a lot of time over the last few years working on a variety of projects in a number of EU countries. When I started this blog at the start of the year I had been determined that the content should focus on issues of career development. I am trying very hard today to write about the impacts of the decision our country has taken on a variety of career related matters. I am struggling a great deal with this I have to say. I have read the posts which colleagues have left on Facebook and on their blogs and I share their overwhelming sense of anger and sadness. This decision does not reflect my views at all. I too have posted some angst ridden comments which reflect this sense of frustration and grief. But I am going to set this aside and try and focus on something objective instead of my emotions.
Working on EU projects has taught me a lot about being European. I have learned that as an English woman I didn’t actually feel very European at the start of the journey. This was largely a problem of my own perspective. Sitting on a little island floating off the side of Europe had given me an islander’s mentality. It was no one’s fault. It was a cultural thing. Working in multi-national teams I have come to recognise that these are smaller versions of the EU and mirror being European. I have learned that my views have often been very blinkered and small as an English woman isolated by geography. As a European woman I am now more open, interested and humbled by the tremendous power of communication and negotiation which are the lubricants of common understanding and purpose and help ‘get the job done’. I have come to understand that my knowledge, skills and perspectives are valued not because people want or need to be ‘told how things should be done’ but as a valued resource to be shared and contextualised. Everyone in Europe faces the common problems of economic development, youth unemployment and the need to develop the skills of young people through inspirational educational programmes. On a personal level I have felt honoured to make a small contribution to this agenda.
During the referendum debates I have been astonished at the arrogance of those putting forward their arguments on both sides. Too many facts and figures. Very little humanity. I travelled to Kosovo, leaving early on the morning of the result. I felt terribly sad and at times, tearful. When I arrived in Pristina I was greeted by a poster appealing to visitors that it was time to end Kosovo’s isolation. The irony was not lost on me. The debate in the UK has often been about stopping the free movement of people. The citizens of Kosovo yearn for this. Not because they all want to move to the UK. The Kosovan diaspora is actually larger than the population of the country already. It is because they want to come and share and learn and help their own country to develop and thrive. It seems logical to me that investing time and energy and resources in supporting this ambition can only be a good thing. I regularly ask myself why anyone would want to leave their own country if it was a good place to be? Surely it is the responsibility of those that have a lot (knowledge, skills and resources) to share those in a way which helps others to grow and thrive. Ultimately this reduces the desire for people to move ‘en masse’. I keep reminding myself that the UK became a great nation not by sitting on an island and never moving. We became a great nation because we explored the world and brought back innovation through our exploration of the planet. Why do we think we have the right to deny others this? These points lead me to re-inforce the notion that the EU is not just a market for goods but it also exists as a market for ideas. Our decision has probably taken ourselves out of this market. We will be the poorer for this as will our EU colleagues.
I think that we have shown through our decision to leave the EU that we are an arrogant uncaring nation who is abandoning a vision of equality and prosperity for all people for one of grabbing and greed. This is an issue for career development because this work contributes to social mobility and social justice. This is why it matters to me. As a European I want social justice for all of the people of this continent and not just those on my island because social justice leads to stability and peace. This is the world that I want my kids and grandkids to grow up in.
I could write here about the lost opportunities for the young people of the UK who are now going to have their aspirations for travel and to be educated alongside their European peers crushed. I could write about the impact of the loss of the funding which comes from the EU and which benefits all of the young people here through research, Erasmus visits, or cultural exchange. I could write here about the impact on my own world of teaching and research. I don’t want to go on at length about all of these tragedies. We are where we are. This is democracy in action. What I need now are answers to some fundamental questions.
How can the career development sector understand and respond to the issues raised through the obvious difference in the views expressed by the younger electorate in the referendum?
The vote results of the younger electorate tells us something about their aspirations. We need to understand this and help young people to develop their aspirations within the new world in which we are all going to live. Youth dissatisfaction is a dangerous issue. A disengaged, dissatisfied youth population leads to other social problems related to health, crime and welfare. We need to shape our profession in a way which can respond to this.
How can we continue to work with colleagues in Europe on knowledge development and exchange in a way which contributes to the wider objectives of social justice and peace?
The members of the career development sector need to have their voice heard during the forthcoming negotiations. We need to have access not only to a ‘market of goods’ but also a ‘market of ideas’. Those that negotiate should not lose sight of this if forthcoming discussions.
This is no time to cry over spilt milk. We need to dust ourselves down and get on with the seriously difficult task ahead. We need research to really understand the problems which this referendum has exposed. We need action to remedy these. We need to develop our voice as a sector so that the messages of social equity and social justice are expressed and heard not just for UK citizens but for the wider world.
Enough said. I am now off for the type of macchiato coffee that only Kosovans can make. Absolutely delicious!