One of the main focus points for both parties this week has been how they will tackle youth unemployment, an issue which here in the Midlands is particularly pressing (we consistently have one of the highest NEET rates in the UK, an issue not helped by the ongoing attacks FE has had under the last government, including the removal of EMA, the end of free adult level 3 qualifications for a large number of learners, and of course the regional impact of austerity which has seen young people in deprived areas hit particularly hard by high unemployment rates alongside other attacks such as those on housing benefits).
Yesterday we heard how the Labour party will guarantee apprenticeships for all who achieve a minimum grade level. While this needs safeguards – that the apprenticeships lead to real jobs, that they pay at a living rate, and that those who are not academic are not written out of non-academic jobs – there has been a focus on how apprenticeship reform will tackle youth unemployment and serve the interests of society rather than specifically serve business.
Today Cameron explained how he is going to get unemployed young people to work to solve the unemployment issue. This sounds great until you hear the rest of the announcement. They are going to work… for benefits. I.e. less than the minimum wage, and certainly less than the living wage. So he is going to teach young people to get off their arses (which is clearly the problem, here in the Mids our young people must just be lazy rather than any factors outside of their control like the class system coming into it) by showing them that they can work for less that the value of their labour and less than any kind of living wage.
It makes no sense. If the work needs doing, get some money from somewhere (e.g. by getting businesses with profits or exective pay over a threshold to actually pay the full value of work they get, thus freeing up the money spent on working tax credits for high earning businesses). Then pay young people the value of the work they do so that they see work as something they are rewarded for not something taken from them with little choice of living otherwise and no sense of social engagement or participation.
We need voting from 16, and we need young people to vote. This is really wrong.