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Friday, 25 November 2011

Tragic Youth

Having been cheated of education-for-life in a schools system fudged by government of all parties over the past four decades, the unemployed million in the United Kingdom are now to be presented with a fake solution to their dilemma. The Tories' favourite fall-guy, the Deputy Prime Minister, is put forward to announce 'training opportunities' and 'apprenticeships' for about a third of the estimated number of unemployed people under 24 years of age. In the largest number of cases there would be a short period of 'work experience', perhaps combined with some hastily-cobbled 'training' whose relevance to the 'work' done under the scheme would at best be tendentious. For minorities of unemployed young, who meet firms' own selection criteria, slightly more realistic short-term jobs could be provided: if employers are prepared to take the risk of bringing possibly-disruptive ill-prepared employees into the workplace for a measly grant of £2,000 a head. In addition pseudo-apprenticeships are supposed to be offered by firms for a subsidy of just £1,500 for a few months.

Real apprenticeships are extremely rare in contemporary Britain. They are granted to young people who are genuinely keen to follow a trade or profession for at least a decade, who have clearly defined qualifications and accept having to combine intensive workplace practice - under tight supervision - with demanding college courses in the science that underpins the process that the apprentice is working on. Employers only create apprenticeships that last from two to four years [even with modern technology to ease tedious requirements like engineering drawing]  if they genuinely believe that they will have a need for the resulting skilled workers for a sufficient number of years to have reasonable confidence of a return on their investment in human resources. There is no such concept implicit in Clegg's announcement: it is merely a statistical game in which the maximum number of young people are to be reclassified into employed or being-trained  categories  at the least possible cost. The estimated cost of the scheme, if enough employers agree to create enough non-jobs - one billion pounds - is a lot to pay for a publicity stunt.

But it is worse than just that. The demoralising effect of being dragooned into taking on such a post - on the human specimen who is being set up for statistical tabulation - is most unlikely to be favourable; either in short-term psychological impact or in the acquisition of life or work skills. The irrelevance of politics to the lives of cheated youth will be highlighted. And the Labour Party is adding to the nonsense, by suggesting that many more young people could be exposed to a similar charade by levying a new [or renewed] tax on bankers. The vacuity of such a concept is painful. Bankers' turnover is not 'money': the trillions that they trade in cyberspace are just electronic emanations. Most of the bonuses that they get for maximising this gambling are handed out in shares: electronic credits. Only the part of their bonuses that they get in bank credit can be exchanged for money: and that is taken from the cash-flow that banks take in from their dealings with people and with firms that exist in the real world. So a tax that is collected in credit from banks comes from the real economy: and Labour say they would raise it and then use it to to deceive the public by putting young people in spurious situations. Real poiticians' fantasy!

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