Nice take on the bigger picture. Working for a small vocational-based university in a city that's experienced a post-industrial decline, I am nervous of the suggestion of focusing training on new industries - they've come and gone increasingly fast in the past 20 years in Dundee and in Scotland generally: NCR, Motorola, Hyundai, computer games firms and more. I like your suggestion of moving our focus on to maturity, and think that ties back neatly to helping young people gain a broad range of experiences, on the premise that we mature through gaining experience, by living life. How would it be if the final year or two of education was built around an experience curriculum rather than a didactic curriculum, when where what my children would describe as 'epic fails' gained you the grades, rather than regurgitating information from a set of textbooks?
That's true, but in previous recessions an 18 year old could stay in education, gain a useful qualification and be fairly sure that the economy would've picked up by the time they graduated. It might be useful now to think 16-24 because we're looking at - at best - a jobless recovery and, at worst, a prolonged period of little or no growth of the kind Japan has faced since the '90s.