Daydream believers look to the future
Creativity, entrepreneurship, and emotional management will be among essential skills for young people in the future as Thailand faces a demographic shift and digital disruption, a forum was told.
Speaking at the "Dare to Dream Fest" event at Lido Connect, Juan Santander, the deputy representative of Unicef Thailand, said the what-do-you-want-to-be question limits rather than opens up possibilities.
"I loved that question when I was young because I wanted to be Spider-Man. However, at 15, I didn't like it because I felt like I had to choose something for the rest of my life. ... don't put those dreams in a box. Don't tie them to a specific job. Keep them open and let them guide you. They are more like compasses [that tell directions] than maps [that tell an exact location]," he said.
The event is part of Unicef's "Dare to Dream" campaign to provide a platform for young people to express their opinions about future skills. It also aligns with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which marks its 30th anniversary this year.
Mr Santander expressed concern about the growing dependency of Thailand's ageing society on the young generation as the number of working-age earners is forecast to drop from 5 to 2 per one elderly person in the next 20 years.
"But at the same time, young people are dropping out of school because of poverty and teenage pregnancy. More than 1 million people aged 15-24 are not in any kind of education, training or employment," he said, referring to the International Labour Organisation's latest report.
Mr Santander also drew attention to rapidly changing technology and nature of work. "The gap between what the education system provides and what the job market expects of you continues to widen," he added.
Youth speakers shared their experiences on the stage. Apichet "Madaew" Atilattana, the transgender fashionista who featured in Time magazine's "Next Generation Leaders" list, encouraged young people to cultivate their own creativity and uniqueness.
"You can achieve it by thinking outside the box consistently. When I was young, I flipped through a magazine in a barbershop and discovered my passion for fashion. I started dressing dolls and then myself with any clothing at hand. In those days, I would do the catwalk in front of my parents at home. After that, I covered myself with banana leaves and posted my first photo on social media. It was not until I wore loincloths and zinc sheet that I got media attention and began to work as a fashion designer," she said.
Pachara "Peach" Chirathivat, actor and owner of Potato Corner, urged young people to gain experience -- whether it be through work, travel, or reading -- to learn about themselves. However, determination is one of the most important qualities for those cut to be an entrepreneur, he said.
"I am now my own boss. Nobody tells me what to do. I end up working harder than I did as an actor. In those days, Potato Corner was still unknown. I remember waiting for 12 hours in the hope of meeting the manager of Mega Bangna Shopping Centre to discuss the possibility of renting space because he refused to make an appointment with me. Nobody writes the rules for success in the business world. Without determination, it is impossible to weather the storm," he said.
Meanwhile, Nitcharee "Thun" Peneakchanasak, who lost her legs in a tragic accident many years ago in Singapore, said emotional management will allow youth to cope with life challenges.
"I was waiting for a train when the crowd jostled me. Suddenly, I fell off the platform and the train ran over my legs. Lying on the ground, I almost burst into tears when I was unable to move my legs [because the nerves were damaged]. However, I tried to regain my awareness because I was the only person who could take control of the situation," said Ms Nitcharee, who is currently studying journalism at Thammasat University.
Ms Nitcharee said after her legs were removed she learnt to use the prosthetics because "being optimistic is more about living in the present with what I have and making the best of it".