In many ways this appears to be a boom time - why then, asks the author, do we sense that these economic good times are very fragile and that substantial numbers of Australians are being left behind? How Australians respond to the deep economic divisions that have opened up in recent years and the erosion of opportunities in certain regions will help to define what sort of nation we have become, he argues. He focuses in particular on the circumstances of young people today, arguing that they are in the frontline of the employment, education and training consequences resulting from the economic transformation involved in the development of the 'new economy'. Points made by the author include that the opportunities and life chances of young people are increasingly being determined by the socioeconomic status of their parents; the capacity of central agencies under current arrangements to determine successful youth transitions is questionable; the teenage labour market is stressed; the holding power of schools is declining; early school leavers are disadvantaged; disadvantages from place are now quite profound, with the implication that policies and resources must be targeted towards regions that are most disadvantaged. The author concludes by identifying seven key themes that are likely to emerge in the near future in relation to attempts to deal with the themes of skills development, lifelong learning and the development of strong foundation skills.