Young, gifted ? but jobless

Author: By Sean O’Grady, Richard Garner and Michael Savage

The figures will show that overall unemployment has risen by over 800,000 in a
year ? a 50 per cent increase ? as almost every sector of the economy, from
construction to the City, sheds labour. Economists are also warning that the
public sector, previously immune to recession, will soon begin to cut jobs
rapidly. Analysts believe that by May ? the last possible date for Gordon
Brown to call an election ? 3 million people will be out of work.

The Bank of England will also publish its Inflation Report today, its
definitive view of the economy, which is widely expected to contain stern
warnings about the dangers to economic recovery. Last week the Bank
announced a further £50bn cash injection for the economy to encourage
growth.

The labour market figures, which will be released by the Office for National
Statistics this morning, will also reveal a growing “casualisation”
of the UK workforce.

Almost a million people are working part time while waiting for a full-time
job to turn up, while half a million more are temping while they search for
permanent positions, suggesting that the official numbers understate the
true scale of the unemployment problem. Yet the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development said that almost one in 10 employers still intends
to recruit migrant workers because they cannot find British workers to do
particular jobs, either because of skill shortages or attitudes to more
menial types of work.

Embarrassingly for ministers, almost every measure of unemployment is now
heading towards peaks not seen since the Conservative Government of the
early-1990s, when up-and-coming politicians such as Gordon Brown made their
reputations condemning Tory complacency over a “lost generation”
of young people consigned to the dole queue. In the three months to May
there were 927,000 under-25s looking for work.

Those leaving school now and belly-flopping into the worst labour market since
the Second World War will also face an uphill struggle to stay in education.
Up to 60,000 youngsters leaving school this year will be denied a university
place according to the latest figures from Ucas, the university admissions
service, which show a record 600,000 people applying to university ? a rise
of over 10 per cent on last year.

This comes despite many students having spent their entire educational careers
under a Labour government which pledged in 1997 to prioritise “Education,
education, education” ? a slogan coined by Mr Brown. Ministers have
told universities they can take in 10,000 more students but have not funded
any extra teaching places. As a result, some ? including Oxford and
Cambridge ? have refused to do so for fear of diluting the quality of
courses.

Tackling youth unemployment is at the top of the Cabinet’s agenda before the
summer recess. Lord Mandelson has introduced an extra 10,000 university
places for the sciences, while the Government is also targeting a £1bn
internship and work experience fund at young people on poor estates.

David Willetts, the shadow Innovations, Universities and Skills Secretary,
blamed the failure of Labour’s flagship New Deal scheme for the current
crisis. He said the number of 16- to 24-year-olds joining the dole queue was
even rising during the boom years. “It shows there has been something
structurally wrong with how Labour has dealt with this problem,” Mr
Willetts said. “This recession is turning into a disaster for young
people. After Gordon Brown’s promises on the New Deal, it is a bitter irony
that young people are suffering.”

The Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable, added that it was “very
plausible” that youth unemployment could top the one million mark
today, adding that while the Government had promised schemes, many were “yet
to take shape”.

He also urged further action to prepare young people to take advantage of
sectors recovering first from the downturn, such as construction. “There
is likely to be an upturn in the building industry and there is an issue
over whether there are enough people with the right kind of trades and
qualifications to take advantage,” he said.

The graduate: ‘Why will nobody give me a chance?’

*Sophie Ganjavian, 22, from Bromley, south-east London, finished her Molecular
Genetics degree at King’s College, London, in the spring. Despite being
awarded a first, she said she had found it impossible to make headway in the
jobs market.

“All of the employers want experience in their new recruits ? how can I
get that if nobody will give me a chance?

“I have been looking on every recruitement website. The hardest thing for
science graduates is that there are no specific careers websites, or
certainly none that I have seen. It seems you have to do it all by yourself.

“I am quite worried about the future because even the training courses I
have been looking at require experience. I think it would be easier if there
were graduate schemes for scientists specifically, particularly since we are
constantly being told that there are not enough science graduates. I need to
get a paid job to support myself, just like everybody else. But if push
comes to shove, I may have to work for free. I have already done that during
my course.

“There is so much competition at the moment. I read recently that, in the
kind of jobs I am applying for, there were 48 applications for each position
advertised. In genetics, for whatever reason, people do not want to open the
door to graduates at the moment. They just do not want to invest.”

The school-leaver: ‘We shouldn’t just be abandoned’

*Even before the recession, Mazie Adams from Hull, was having difficulty
finding a job. Now, after three years of fruitless job-hunting and ill-fated
college courses, she has had to go ‘back to school.’

But she is still having trouble finding a part-time job to fund her studies.
Mazie left Wolfreton Comprehensive at 16-years-old with “very low
grades.” She said there was very little advice available to her. “I’m
19 on Saturday and it has taken me this long to find a course I love, one
which I think might take me somewhere. I am now studying engineering at the
Career Choices college in my hometown.

“I wanted to work with animals and enrolled on a course but there was
nothing to get me into the workplace outside of college. I would prefer to
see more schemes like that: At my age, I need to get experience. I managed
to get onto a programme called CAT.ZERO through my local Connexions branch.
It is a course for young people who are unemployed.

“They showed me that there can be more to my life than I thought. I
overcame a lot of obstacles and it has improved my self-confidence. I think
it is proof that there may be things out there soon but we need help to find
them. We need someone to guide us when we leave school. We should not just
be abandoned to get on with it ourselves.”

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