The nouveau unemployed

03Sep09

Britain’s young workforce has been more or less abandoned by the Government at present. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the ins and outs of the Department of Business and Enterprises however it doesn’t take an expert to realise that the Job Centres are teeming with the bright, young unemployed for a reason.

Last week we all witnessed the scramble for clearing places. 140,000 school-leavers were left to fight over 11,000 places, of which very few were available for the most popular subjects such as English and History. This week, those left bereft and without the chance to follow their classmates into university this month have signed on and the Job Centres are creaking under the strain.

Despite this, the Government (all begrudgingly trying to forget their two weeks in Cromer by the looks of things) has said very little about what can be done about this completely predictable and inevitable state of affairs for young people. Granted there is a minority of those on Jobseekers’ Allowance who aren’t honestly doing all they can to earn a crust however having returned home from the Job Centre again today, the place is full of smartly dressed, slightly baffled-looking youngsters who look about as uncomfortable as I feel waiting to be grilled about the lengths we go to to find work. And not just any work, necessarily, work that will use our skills, strengths and education.

I am no school-leaver. I have been aware of the situation since May. Earlier this year the BBC news website posted an article about Gordon Brown advising young graduates to look abroad for job opportunities. Having a couple of languages under my belt I honestly did look at placements abroad in the media field. I found none which offered pay. It seemed to me to be a poorly thought-out plan of Brown’s to indicate there may be more opportunities overseas without being able to advise which organisations may be open to paying us.

However, the Continent does have a better grasp of the situation which, looking at the media hysteria two weeks ago about clearing, has apparently taken everybody by surprise! Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, has adopted a proactive scheme regarding getting the work-ready youth of Germany into training. The German government are giving companies the money for half a trainee or first jobber’s salary so the company then only has to fork out half.

How fantastic must it be to go into an office, pull up a chair, slap your impressive CV and portfolio on the table and say, “You give me a job and the government will pay half my salary.” I know a number of people who would be hiring trainees given that government prize.

However, our Government is forced to make massive cuts due to bankers feathering their own nests. Brown’s recent investment in 45,000 new jobs in leisure, tourism and hospitality for young people and “backing young Britain” seems to be too little too late. What else could he have expected? Apparently a Mass Exodus abroad in an apparent washing of hands of Britain’s disenfranchised youth including the first top-up fees graduates, and unlike those running the country, graduates who have had to pay for the privilege of further education only to enter the job market with an unbelievably steep debt.

To an insider, that seems to be the only plan that ever left the table in time.

A moment further to plead my case, if you will. This is the first time I have ever collected Jobseekers’ Allowance.  Not because my parents left me to loll about as a lady of leisure for years but because I have always worked. Because I am professionally trained and want to work in a particular profession, I am not being hired for jobs to tide me over because employers take one look at my CV and know I’ll jump ship as soon as a bigger, better boat comes long. I can’t blame them, its the truth. There are no traineeships and media offices are pairing down their workforces to skeleton staffs. Johnston Press, my local press agency for whom I have worked for a long time unpaid, has a two year job freeze. Owing to Jobseeker regulations (see previous blog), I am not allowed to continue working for them unpaid either. I am stranded.

The situation is getting desperate. Job Centres are going to added lengths such as mandatory Return to Work Sessions on weekends, apparently, in the hopes that those who deem it unreasonable won’t bother and so won’t be eligible for benefits the following week. I intend to attend just to spite them, provided I don’t get a job before next Saturday.

I felt so sorry for the scores of 18 to 21 year-olds sitting sheepishly with the rest of us hopelessly jobless adults. None of them deserve to be in this situation after working so hard for their A-levels or degrees.

Graduates and school leavers of 2009 have truly been abandoned, it is time for Labour to make a point of actually reassuring the legions of leavers on the benefits bandwagon, or for one of the other major players to step up to the mark. There are an awful lot of voters in this demographic, all of whom have been sorely overlooked to the detriment of those in power or seeking power.

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One Response to “The nouveau unemployed”

  1. 1 Laura

    I have never agreed with something so much!! I am one of the 2009 graduates you speak of and things are getting very desperate. Something needs to be done or else I’m really worried that my talent will just go to waste.
    Thanks for highlighing our misery, hopefully someone will sit up and take notice.


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