Work is learnt at a young age. That is why I am a supporter of the scheme the government has announced to give young people leaving school some experience of a working environment. I think it is a betrayal of the interests of those young people that some hard left pressure groups have sought to intimidate companies who are participating in a scheme that is ultimately about offering a helping hand to the next generation.
The idea is very simple. It’s a voluntary scheme to help teenagers get some experience of work. They would be able to try a placement for a few days and then, if they liked it, commit to doing a further four weeks unpaid work experience there with some training. The allegation by the Socialist Workers Party that this is tantamount “slave labour” is absolute rubbish. The companies involved would actually be spending time and money taking young people under their wing for a few weeks and giving them a break in life. It was a good thing for them to have agreed to do and they should have been commended for it, not vilified.
Some said it was wrong to insist on a commitment for four weeks after the initial trial period of a few days but one of the things about joining a workplace is that it is a commitment. You need people to turn up in the morning, learn to be relied upon and become part of the team. If the idea of the scheme is to prepare young people for work, then commitment is one of the things they should learn.
I think there has been a damaging drift in recent years towards young people starting work too late. It is good that more people stay on in education beyond 16 and I am pleased that more people are going to university. But staying in education should not preclude learning to work. I think it is important for teenagers to get a weekend job at a much younger age.
Having a part time job can help boost the confidence of a young teenager. It can also give them some money of their own so it’s not just those with wealthy parents who have the smart clothes out of school. I left school at 15 and then studied part time while working on the farm but I had worked during school holidays for years before that. But, in the name of “progress”, the law has made it harder for 14 and 15 year olds to take a weekend job by creating bureaucratic obstacles which make it difficult for small businesses who might have previously found some work for teenagers to give them that start in life. That is a backwards step in my view.
George Eustice can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall, TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.