I was shocked recently by the comments from our Employment Minister Esther McVey on youth unemployment. We currently have the highest unemployment rate for young people for decades which she blames on our laziness and inability to step up our game and compete for work. Obviously nothing to do with her at all <cough cough>. As a graduate myself, finding it increasingly difficult to get work experience, I am very
very very irritated by her suggestions. I would not described myself as lazy. I describe myself as someone rudely awakened to the reality that life doesn’t get easier after completing education. It is just one of the many hurdles of life.
Esther McVey’s particular comment that caused an outcry was her suggestion that we all got jobs in Costa quoted by numerous newspapers (The Guardian and The Telegraph as examples) with incredulity….. Perhaps she does not realise that it is difficult to get a job in Costa? In fact any job is difficult to get however “menial” it is. I myself applied for Christmas temp jobs at various shops and had to go through multiple online questionnaires, telephone interviews and group interviews only to be told I didn’t fit their requirements. That was for a temporary job. So to say we are not trying I think displays her lack of awareness as to how easy it is to get a job at all- especially if like me you have studied at the expense of experience in the work place….
That is to say I do believe us young people (especially graduates) need to lower our expectations and not expect great things too soon. I have several friends that are turning down jobs in supermarkets and restaurants because it’s not what they want to do which I do think is slightly problematic. Yet there is a terrible irony in accepting a random job for money for by becoming employed in something that will not aid your chosen career you have limited time to gain experience in the subject/area of employment you’ve spent your education specialising for.
So what next? Does anyone else think there will have to be a shift in how people perceive education and employment? Because I sincerely do! Education should be given importance but not seen as the only path to success. There are many routes, and we should be shown all the routes. My experience of school and college reminds me of Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Miss Brodie’s focus on improving her favourite girls. A kind of morbid conditioning that affects their feelings of self worth and intelligence in how well they succeed in impressing her. Society (I’m talking broadly of parents, teachers, and the media here) shows us that life will better if we succeed at education. You will be rewarded for doing well in education, and heavily criticised for doing “badly”. If you go to University you have won the education battle. But what everyone should really be telling us is that education does NOT give you unemployment immunity nor does it make you superior. It is simply a chance to find out what you want to do. And perhaps if they had told us that from the start we’d have done things from our own volition rather than a sense of childish
and smug entitlement.