Vince Cable made the comments to more than 250 members of the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) at the weekend, during a keynote speech at the organisation’s annual parliament sitting.
The 12- to 18-year-olds met to debate which issues to include in their next manifesto ahead of the 2013 House of Commons sitting to be held in November.
Cable said young people should apply for government start-up loans to set up as entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs, which he described as: “An idea of combining the methods of business with idealism and social commitment.”
He called on young people to take advantage of new technology to improve online learning, and to consider working in Europe and other countries.
“The world you go into will be much less certain, less predictable and less secure,” warned Cable.
He also signed the UKYP’s Curriculum For Life petition that calls on the government to add topics including politics, sex and relationships, and cultural awareness education to the national curriculum.
Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd, who has held ministerial responsibility for youth work since early July, also addressed the UKYP members through a video message.
“The Prime Minister asked me to take on responsibility for youth policy across government. I’m really excited about that because I don’t think there has ever been a more important time for the voice of youth to be heard inside parliament and inside government,” he said.
“Britain is aging as a country, and I think it’s really important that our political debate is not dominated by the priorities of older people.”
Children’s minister Ed Timpson added further ministerial messages via a video recording.
He said Hurd would be responsible for statutory duties around youth work, and would “work to make sure your voice is heard through the Youth Parliament and other established channels like the National Scrutiny Group and the Youth Select Committee”.
Among the issues debated by the young people were votes at 16 or 17, university fees, and a call to raise the minimum wage to living wage standards.
Youth Parliament member for Brent, Chante Joseph, 17, backed lowering the voting age as a priority.
“I’m very grateful that we have UKYP, and it's our way of voicing our opinions, but the vote is so powerful – it’s something every young person should have because it’s a fundamental basic right to be able to participate in an open election,” she said.
Next week, UKYP members will publish the final list of manifesto issues debated in Leeds in time for a vote on which should go into the referendum ballot ahead of the November meeting.