Tue 17 Nov 2020 by Evan Short

“The Co-operation Ireland Future Leaders’ Programme is so pivotal at this time.  It is about investing in young people.  It is about investing in the future”.

Golden Globe nominated actor Jimmy Nesbitt has launched a new youth programme designed by Co-operation Ireland to equip the next generation of leaders in society. The leading peace building charity has designed a Future Leaders’ Programme to give a voice to young people who, according to a survey, say they are passionate about playing a part in society but fear a lack of employment will undermine their future.

A number of leading businesses across the island of Ireland, Britain and the United States have signed up to sponsor the new programme which launched in November.

According to Co-operation Ireland’s poll, Political instability, COVID-19 and environmental issues have all been revealed as priorities for young people between the ages of 12 and 20.

570 young people from across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland who take part in the charity’s programmes said they remained largely hopeful for the future (82.4 per cent) and were committed to playing a constructive role in society (89.4 per cent).  However, when asked, their greatest concerns were for the future of the economy and how the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic would impact their employment opportunities (87.7 per cent).  Environmental issues (43 per cent) and equality (17 per cent) were also raised by the young people as priorities.

The survey was carried out as Co-operation Ireland launched a new Future Leaders’ Programme which has been designed to give young people the skills to become ambassadors for their generation.  Participants will be afforded the opportunity to meet with elected representatives and business leaders to reflect their hopes and concerns for the future.

Co-operation Ireland CEO Peter Sheridan said the programme would form the core of the charity’s strategic plan moving forward.

“Ireland has statistically the youngest population in Europe with 39 per cent of the population under the age of 29. If we look at Northern Ireland, that figure according to the last census is similar at around 38 per cent.  These young people will chart the future for all of us and the   Co-operation Ireland Future Leaders’ Programme will equip them play a leadership role in turbulent times.

Not only will they be the generation to cement the peace process, but they will also be the people who will navigate the post Brexit era. We see it as our job to prepare them for this and this programme will be an excellent way to provide them with a path to constructive engagement and accredited qualifications.”

Co-operation Ireland has recruited a significant number of private ambassadors from business communities across this island as well as from Britain and the United States to fund the programme.Their financial and hands-on programme delivery support will provide Co-operation Ireland with the independence required to enable our young people to lead in how the programme is designed and delivered.