The government’s ‘boot camp’ idea is built on myths

Most young people want to work, there just aren't enough jobs for them


If the government wishes to create a ‘no excuses’ culture to youth unemployment then its first step has to be creating the jobs and apprenticeships young people are crying out for.

It ought to go without saying that we should do everything we possibly can to arm young people with all the skills, knowledge and confidence they will need to be as employable as possible. On that basis Monday’s announcement that young people will be placed on ‘activity programmes’ should be welcome.

What is less welcome is the misleading rhetoric the policies are wrapped up in. Listen to the government and you’d be forgiven for believing all young people sit on the dole in need of army style ‘bootcamps’ and the threat of benefit removal to motivate them.

In reality most young people want to work and get on, and are some of our most entrepreneurial and creative citizens. Some of their best skills can often fall outside of the traditional career routes – think apps developed in bedrooms by creative teenagers.

Whilst not everyone will turn out to be the next Bill Gates it is government’s job to educate and prepare young people for the working world and then, through fair and balanced stewardship of the economy, do everything possible to ensure the jobs are there for them when that education comes to an end.

The truth is that too often our young people are ready, willing and eager to work but the jobs are just not there. Many have been badly let down by the decisions made by the current government and by the recent coalition. Some groups of young people find it harder to find work – for example since 2010 there has been a 49 per cent rise in the number of young BME people unemployed for a year or more.

The decision to provide jobless young people with employability training to develop soft skills and CV writing is positive. But you have to wonder if we’d need this announcement if the last government hadn’t scrapped the Connexions service which provided exactly this type of training in schools, and instead implemented a disastrous reform of careers guidance.

The result was to leave in its place a gaping hole in the preparedness of pupils for the world of work. Giving responsibility to schools to provide careers guidance was a move which Ofsted found led to unequal and poor access to impartial careers advice, which includes skills such as CV writing and interview techniques.

Young people should not leave school at the age of 18 without the ability to write a CV and apply for jobs, or the social skills to navigate an interview, but it seems that this is often the case.

By adding a punitive element to the deal, withdrawing job seekers allowance for those who refuse to take the course, the government seems to imply it is young ‘job seekers’ themselves that are the problem – obviously not wanting to improve their own chances of getting a job.

In a very small minority of cases this may carry some truth, but it’s more down to a lack appropriate jobs to apply for, not an untidy CV. That can only be solved by government and its time they took responsibility for that.

The other obvious question is why this kind of scheme should only apply to young people; surely everyone who wants it should be offered the skills to make them more employable.

As is often the case at the start of a parliament, there are things to be welcomed in this announcement – but we will have to wait to see if they are borne out by results. For example, the promise of three million new apprenticeships would make a significant difference – if they are truly high quality and targeted at young people.

Apprenticeship performance in recent years teaches us to be cautious. In 2012 for example, Boris Johnson pledged 250,000 new apprenticeships by 2016. With less than a year to go we’re not even half way.

Add to that the fact that almost half (44 per cent)(p.21) of the 96,500 apprenticeships started in London between 2012 and 2014 went to people aged over 25 with many of them more akin to subsidised in-work training than entry level roles.

The popularity of apprenticeships actually illustrates my wider point. The latest figures show that in London there are 17 people chasing each apprenticeship. Far from the work-shy myth perpetuated by some, young people are clearly eager to get into work, willing even to tolerate the pitiful minimum wage of £2.73 per hour which uniquely applies to apprentices.

Giving unemployed young people a work-skills ‘bootcamp’ might be useful in some cases (and sounds tough) but it doesn’t magic up the jobs they want and need. Nor does it solve the underlying skills problem and explain why government is cutting investment in soft skills and careers guidance at school.

What this new scheme looks like in practice will tell a lot about the government’s intentions. Are we talking high quality training or simply a tough-sounding tick box? One breeds results, the other a throwaway headline. By implying it is young people’s fault rather than a failure of government when they can’t get the job, the Conservatives are building up excuses in advance for their failure to deliver for the young unemployed. This is neither helpful or acceptable.

Fiona Twycross AM is Labour’s London Assembly Economy Spokesperson. Follow her on Twitter

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14 Responses to “The government’s ‘boot camp’ idea is built on myths”

  1. steroflex

    I went to Peterborough today in the morning (I am an OAP). Lots of young men wandering round. In the local park, it was more or less mummies with their children. In the area where I was brought up, it was ethnic youths lounging against lamp-posts, or Muslim young men bustling, alone, along the pavement. Where do they work, I wonder?
    Here are some tips:
    1. Bring back some male subjects into the classroom: computing skills, metalwork, woodwork, plastics, science with dangerous experiments, association/rugby football without girls involved, ex army men PE instructors. Sitting teenage boys down to study Jane Austin and to play silly games all day is not going to enthuse them. Neither is cramming for exams which they will fail because they simply are not interested. I am almost now in favour of single sex schools before the A level exams.
    2. Cut the benefits until they have earned them. Also allow them to work for little money and without all the health and safety stuff. At the moment it is impossible for a young man to get on the ladder.
    3. You need a lot more male teachers – especially in maths and English and science. Difficult, what with Rolf Harris, I know, but somehow…
    4. Allow them to leave and take a job at the age of 15.

  2. Chrisso

    Disappointing that the only response is this crass one! I am also an ‘OAP’ yet this letter must be from a 99 year old, or someone old and fading in their faculties before their time.
    ‘Bring back some male subjects into the classroom’ – how sexist is that, there are not MALE subjects!
    ‘Allow them to work without health and safety’. Yes, a really ‘left’ idea – Not. They already get poor pay – read the article – £2.73 per hour for apprentices. You’d put their lives in danger too.
    ‘You [we?] need more male teachers.’ Yes, always. But ‘Rolf Harris’ is irrelevant to this! Are you saying all male teachers are paedophiles?
    ‘Allow them to leave and work at 15’. Why? The school leaving age is 16 and has been since Sept 1972 or nearly 43 years ago. Were you still an OAP even then? Why do you want to go backwards? (Strewth. Give me strength!)

  3. Mick

    It’s not Steroflex who appears to be senile. Even people in Labour, like ‘bruiser Prescott,’ enjoyed a bit of boxing. And if boys are given things to do with their hands, many more of them WILL be enthused. It’s a ‘boy thing’, not sexism – another lazy lefty label for realities they dismiss.

    Also, there HAS been a dropoff in male teachers because they just don’t want the stress of even being accused, plus the fact true apprenticeships hardly exist any more IS one reason why kids have nothing to look forward to.

  4. Chrisso

    I did not say senile but maybe that applies to you – or juvenile may be more apt. There are not MALE subjects. Boxing is not a subject. You are out of date on apprenticeships too. Crawl back under your stone.

  5. Mick

    ‘All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names……’. Just in that case, it was Rudolf who was red.

    As boxing made a comeback in schools under Labour, you’d better insult someone else. And there are indeed subjects which are more masculine in tone than others, despite many girls liking to join in too. Nothing up with that.

    And under Labour, the New Deal helped put the kibosh on mass scale trade training.

  6. Harold

    Whats wrong with Jane Austin, perhaps some of the writing could develop the characters more and some of the TV adaptations have been lacking, but over all quite an important contribution to the English Language. I do not a lot of the UKIP/EDL/BNP commentators on social media struggle with the written word, punctuation and spelling being particularly week, I first though this was a code or a sign of belonging to the “Patriotic” right, but it appears I was wrong, it is more a badge of pride.

    When I started work you worked Monday to Friday 8 till 5, the shops shut at 5 and Saturday afternoon along with all day Sunday. Now it is 24/7, much more night working, early shifts starting at 4am or earlier, supermarkets open all night, and the dreaded Sunday opening. Consequently if you factor in zero hours it is no longer a surprise to see many people about during the day.

    Economically paying low wages and ignoring Health and safety issues is really a non starter, I just cannot see how you could have some people protected at work and others not, would give the employer flexibility when needing to cut corners. Recently where the my wife works there were two contractors put to work in a deep pit without the safety precautions in place, one became unwell due to the fumes an ambulance was called but he was ok, the contractors supervisor was dismissed. Obviously we could avoid costly H&S but it might cause other problems, just imaging the local press getting hold of a story where 15 year olds were at risk.

  7. GhostofJimMorisson

    What incentive is there for the government to invest in apprenticeships when it’s far easier and cheaper to import skilled East Europeans? A question often raised then quickly dismissed as bigotry and anti-immigrant.

  8. DemSoc93

    It’s only anti-immigrant if you’re blaming the immigrants for that situation and not the bosses who’ll go anywhere and rip off anyone for a cheap deal.

  9. DemSoc93

    For God’s sake, you Neanderthal, it’s Jane Austen.

    “Where do they work, I wonder?”

    It’s likely they can’t find a job (see article above), ” for example since 2010 there has been a 49 per cent rise in the number of young BME people unemployed for a year or more.”

    1. I agree there should be more vocational education, though I wouldn’t use the phrase “male subjects” because its 2015.

    2. What does “cut benefits til they’ve earned them” even mean? Almost everyone on them is there because they need them. And your other solution is to get rid of labour regulation and minimum wage legislation people struggled for years to establish? Are you real?

    3. Why on earth would male teachers make a difference?

    4. I don’t necessarily think they should be allowed to leave but they should be allowed to take up some vocational education outside the classroom as not everyone’s academic.

  10. Dave Stewart

    Being old doesn’t give you the automatic right to be listened to. Especially if you are talking rubbish.

    Respect is earned.

  11. Jon Jones.

    I was about to accuse you of being just a troll, quite a clever troll. You no the true meaning of the term in this context – someone who winds people up without them really realising they are being wound up. But then I read your post history. I was disappointed to say the least, because it seems you really are a racist, bigoted pseudo-Christian fuckwit.

    If you’re really just playing a clever double-bluff, then well played. Top marks. If not, well then, I really do pity you.

  12. GhostofJimMorisson

    True enough; but it’s in every companies’ interest to get a cheap deal, as you say, and EU freedom of movement, combined with weak, militant and myopic trade unions, is providing them with exactly that.

  13. Mike Stallard

    Jon old fellow, this sort of stuff says a lot more about you than it does about me. I should be very ashamed to write like that to someone who is, in fact, a perfect stranger.
    I don’t do double bluff, at least never on this site. What I am after is the truth.

  14. Jon Jones.

    “Jon old fellow, this sort of stuff says a lot more about you than it does about me.”

    Well, I can’t say I disagree with you there. I hope my comment says a lot more about myself rather than you. As I wasn’t commenting about you or any of your previous comments

    It would be kind of strange if my comment said more about someone such as yourself that I have had no prior communication with at all.

    Unless you are also “steroflex” and lead a double life? But hey, thanks for your input “Mike”

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