Figures released yesterday show that nearly 1 million people under 25 have lost their jobs in this recession, that the dreaded dole queue is now longer than we came to power and we face creating a second lost generation with all the social consequences that follow.
When labour came to power the mantra was; “Education, education, education”, and Tony Blair doubled the money going into the system in order to try and create a highly educated workforce which would help Britain to adjust to the decimation of our industrial base which saw a contraction of 25% between 1979-81 and unemployment reach 3.5 million in the mid eighties.
But I feel strategic mistakes have been made by the Government, not through malice but because of a lack of attention to detail. Blair was a great one for sweeping catch all ideas but with little time to enforce a sense of doing things right. A good example is the NHS data base where he just decided we needed one and expected it to happen overnight. When the advice came that it would be a lengthy and costly process his response was just get on with it, the technology must be there!
And so it has been with education. “Hey! Let’s get everyone a University standard qualification and all will be well!”
Thus many young people have been carolled into thinking that University was their only option for progressing after school, and as a result a whole “industry” has developed of expanding Universities at the expense of standards, and the aggressive marketing of frankly risible courses mean that young people take on a stinging level of debt, have unrealistic expectations foisted on them and end up with a pointless and irrelevant degree.
And the mirror image is of young people who feel like total failures if they don’t achieve the 5 A to C benchmark at GCSE, and are turned off by a curriculum which is far from the inclusive ideal that Labour strive for.
What is needed is for the Government to re align the system via increasing the level of meaningful apprenticeships, vocational courses post 14, and a return to the old system of awarding A level grades based on a graph rather than pre set marks to give true rewards to the high fliers.
1 in 6 of our young people are kicking their heels and desperate for work. There has to be a drastic re evaluation of where we are going otherwise along with gambling and the erosion of civil liberties, youth un employment will be part of the toxic legacy of this Labour Government poisoning so much of what has been great about the last twelve years of progress for the UK.