Yesterday, the Sunday Times published a ‘Bridging the gap’ work experience supplement. With graduate unemployment at 12%, political debate typically adversarial as opposed to analytical, and half baked offerings in terms of solutions, I thought this got right to the very heart of the issue. It’s the companies, Stupid…
A plethora of companies that we work with at WEXO are committed to work experience and internships and various placements that we have organised have already become full time jobs. Having rejuvenated Marks and Spencer, Sir Stuart Rose is also Chairman of Business in the Community and on Tuesday is launching ‘The Big Conversation’ - a call to action for employers to turn ‘work experience into work inspiration’. We will be there and back these calls whilst encouraging companies to sign up to WEXO for free and open up more opportunities to register their commitment to our executives of tomorrow.
We didn’t get an invite to the ‘youth summit’ in Birmingham the other day but our Lead Developer, Ben Drew was in the vicinity and informs me that Gordon didn’t get a very warm reception. Dull, grey and occasionally a little sweaty was the feedback I got – and that was just the weather. Gordon talked again of creating more jobs (Microsoft, Bovis Lend Lease, Pfizer, Phones4U, Centrica, Carillion, Wm Morrison and Royal Mail were all cited as having opened up various schemes) and training opportunities. But Sean Figg, of Youth Fight for Jobs, said the announcements were “full of attention-grabbing headlines…but devoid of any meaningful detail.” With more than 920,000 16 to 24-year-olds unemployed both the Liberals and Conservatives were keen to get the boot in too wanting to see more numbers and calling for more action but what can the Government really do? Sure, the Labour party got us into this mess but can they really get us out?
The problem is systemic and it started when Tony got up and said ‘Education, education, education’ and democratised University access with little regard to the fact that one day soon people would want the relevant ‘Employment, employment, employment’. So today, we have too many people looking for ‘graduate’ style jobs in the service sector and not enough companies taking heed of the Apprentice scheme etc. So everyone still needs a good plumber and builder (I highly recommend www.capstonelondon.com ). I am consistently approached by graduates looking for Engineering opportunities (see Spotlight for one) and even if this is not an area that it can compete internationally in, UK Plc should at least be developing relationships with the companies from other countries that can.
The problem is also financial and Labour’s classic Keynesian ‘spend, spend, spend’ solution to all of our problems and the associated borrowing has to stop somewhere – this was the exact cause of the credit crisis and Keynes himself said ‘the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent’. If there’s money in pots to be allocated to unemployment, we’ll happily have some of it and believe companies need to be incentivised to take graduates (in whatever way they can). If the money’s run out then I do see some rationale in Nick Clegg’s calls to scrap the VAT cut and use the proceeds to pay for up to 800,000 young people to do work internships. The government has attempted to produce its own solutions through the Graduate Talent Pool etc (see our review here) but we believe it should be supporting the private sector through initiatives like our own and helping the companies themselves who hold the keys to tomorrow’s prosperity.
P.S. So as not to leave the Conservatives out of the line of fire, in response to David Willetts (shadow secretary of state for universities and skills) claims in the weekend press that students are being kept in the dark over career prospects, there are already a plethora of websites offering information to students. We particularly like the www.thestudentroom.co.uk and it took us under 2 minutes to find the following table which reveals what careers pay what to graduates: http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/single.htm?ipg=6371 (if that’s what matters!)