Tuesday 7 February 2012

Young unemloyed "ill prepared."?

You would think that the statement that one of the reasons for there being over a million unemployed young people in Britain is "poor preparation for the labour market" would come from someone on the far right. In fact it was from David Miliband, unsuccessful contender for the Labour leadership, on the BBC's "Today" programme yesterday (6th February). Genuine socialists in the Labour party must be breathing a sigh of relief that the younger brother won, and that the elder has now announced that he will remain in the obscurity of the back benches.

I find the statement alarming for two reasons. First, when there are five unemployed people for every advertised post, it is a nonsense to claim that so many of the young are unemployed because they're not capable of working. As has been repeatedly pointed out by those active in the system, all the training and retraining, polishing of CVs and application techniques are worthless if there are no jobs. The overwhelming majority of young people are very well qualified for work. Many are graduates or have proved their ability and stickability by completing similar demanding courses. To dismiss their failure to obtain employment as being due to "poor preparation" is an insult.

My second reason for finding the statement alarming from someone allegedly on the left is perhaps unfair, as it was not explicitly stated. Maybe I'm too sensitive but I think many listeners would gather the implication that David Miliband attribute the alleged poor preparation to our education system.

In my view education professionals and politicians should be insistent that the education system exists not to provide fodder for the economy but to open windows and give everyone, whatever his or her talents, the opportunity to reach their full potential. If in the process they happen to develop some skill that is useful to the economy, well and good, but it is not the main purpose of education

I know that this is an idealistic position, but there is quite enough pressure from both the young and their parents to see education mainly as a meal ticket, without educationalists and politicians joining in. One of the worst decisions a Labour government ever made was to create a "Department of Education and Employment." The two should be kept separate.

So one again thank goodness for the Liberal tradition, which sees people as individuals seeking fulfilment and not simply as cogs in an economic wheel.


  1. Speaking as a graduate presently employed as a cinema worker, I'd like to point out that the two positions aren't mutually exclusive. At once, there are no jobs, and my generation is ill prepared to fight for those which are there. Degrees, diplomas, A Levels, GCSEs: these were all just hoops we jumped through for the Labour propaganda machine. Out the other side of the qualification factory, these scout badges are substitutes for genuine self confidence which was kept out of our reach by our being treated like seals.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I suppose a lot depends on what you're doing in the cinema. If you're training as a manager that could be the start of an interesting career, but if you're simply selling the ice cream in the intervals that hardly sounds like the foundation of a glittering future for a graduate. Still, you never know: Marks of M&S started off with a humble market stall in Leeds. Nevertheless, if you are in unskilled work, the fact that you are prepared to do it gives the lie to the idea that the young are too picky to do uninspiring jobs and too idle or lacking in organisation and familiarity with a work culture to get out of bed and turn up for employment.

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