WE’RE on the receiving end of a tidal wave of bad news about the economy. From government debt, to the jobs shortage and rising fuel prices. This, however, doesn’t worry me.

What worries me – no, terrifies me – is the way we have, in the last 12 years, managed to reduce the assault rifle-like competitive edge in our graduates to the effectiveness of a flintlock muzzle loader.

We know how it’s happened but it’s not even in public debate and, unless we get the edge back, our long term economic outlook will surely suffer. Where are the competitive business people of the next 20 years?

The rot set in a dozen years ago when we started to see the win/lose concept disappear from our state schools. No one won but, more to the point, no one loses either; regardless of whether you are more inclined towards sports or academia. The very basis of competition was nobbled. Within five years, the rot had set in and kids were entering university thinking that competition was something that didn’t exist in their Facebook world.

Here’s an interesting fact, though. Britain’s medal trawl that year was the best of any Olympics we have competed in. Nearly 50 per cent of the medals we won came from competitors who had received their education from private schools, which represents only 5 per cent of the education system. Goldman Sachs will have hired all of those before I get a look in.

My startup has been looking for grads to take on in sales and public relations roles. We’ve been stunned by what appears to be a universal indifference to ambition or drive. Sales and profit are dirty words. Being in a career with your mates seems to be the highest level of ambition.

Actually, there is a solution. Want to hire ambitious young people who want to learn and want to get their hands dirty? Hire Aussies and Kiwis. We’ve got a collection in the office (and some Canadians thrown in for good measure) and they get the whole ambition and work ethic thing brilliantly. All they seem to want in return is a fair salary package but also the real ability to learn and gain experience. For me as an employer it’s a great package.

The only downside is that they gain huge experience and eventually take it back home to benefit their local economies in long term.

I’m still worried.

John Straw is a serial entrepreneur. His current venture is Linkdex, a company that organises Google search optimisation campaigns for clients.

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