Back in 2007 four unemployed young men in Swindon, where there were plenty of jobs, were challenged to get work. This was a follow-up to see what has happened to them in the last three years. Digby Jones, former head of the CBI, had only a small role in the programme, but there were questions which could have been asked of him. We were told that he is "passionate about improving employment skills". But there was no mention of the fact that businesses have long since ceased to train their own employees. They decided a couple of decades ago that they would only take on people, ready qualified and experienced, off the shelf; the tax-payer has had to pick up the bill for training. Of the 4 young men, 2 got work through a work placement while on New Deal. Both are low-paid, low skills jobs; but no one would argue that this isn't a good outcome for them. Both had been employed in other jobs since 2007, but one lost his job when the company he worked for went out of business in the crash; the other resigned after 7 months. They are now seen as New Deal successes and are still in work.
The other two are still out of work. Tim had a job in a juice bar but lost it after 3 months for bad time-keeping. Ben got agency work at BMW and loved it, but was a casualty of the recession. He also had the prospect of a job through a New Deal placement, as a night porter in a hotel, but turned it down. The job went to another New Deal client after a work placement. At the end of the programme Ben was being interviewed by an FE college for an apprenticeship. Tim is doing a 3-month voluntary course to improve his employability. Both talked about the demoralisation of being unemployed. Jones had no sympathy. They were eminently employable, he said, telling them to get their hair cut, and trying to fire them up by humiliating them. Both Ben's parents and Jones said they were in favour of Workfare - force NEETs on to training or similar schemes or they forfeit their benefits. The punch line to the programme was the statement that each NEET will cost the tax-payer over £100k.
How you react to this programme will depend on your personal experience. What it highlighted for me was the lack of real skills training for young people. Schools have not engaged with vocational training enough, and the government has been concerned with getting 50% of kids to go to university and has ignored the rest.