Sunday, 4 March 2012
Work Experience is Good not BAD!
All week, the media has been dominated by criticisms of the Work Programme. Criticisms have ranged from “it’s bullying and exploitation”, or it’s “modern-day slave labour” to “it benefits big business”. And where are these cries coming from? The Socialist Workers Party – the same group which advocates the overthrow of capitalism through a Marxist Revolution!
How disappointing that these criticisms are firstly, intimidating providers into reconsidering their support for young people and secondly, undermining one of the best hopes that young people have to find work in today’s tough economic climate.
With companies such as Tesco, Boots, Debenhams and Argos involved, the scheme invites those on jobless benefits to volunteer for work experience placements for up to eight weeks. Instead of just staying at home and applying for jobs, young people are given an option – a voluntary option to gain some practical understanding of what it is like to be an employee and to boost their confidence. The very routine of working and experience of a workplace is a positive education in itself.
And there are real barometers of success. Since last January, 34,000 people aged 16 – 24 have undertaken work experience and of these, over 50% of participants have come off benefits within 13 weeks of signing up. With such positive outcomes, I have to wonder who people can criticise a scheme which ahs only the interests of young people at heart. Even Sir Stuart Rose, ex-Marks and Spencer Chief - who started out shelf-stacking and sweeping floors - said it was “baffling” that anyone would complain about young people being granted similar opportunities.
I hope that some of our country’s top high street firms will continue to show their commitment to the Work Programme and won’t be dissuaded by the disproportionately loud voices of the minority. These companies have a hugely important role to play in giving young people a chance and breaking that catch 22 which our younger Thanet residents suffer from. They are told they can’t get a job unless they have some work experience and yet struggle to be granted the opportunity! The Work Programme breaks this vicious cycle and offers a practical solution for young job-seekers today.