Thursday, 22 August 2013

Unemployment Down.

Last week saw the latest unemployment figures published which showed a further fall in unemployment in Devon and Cornwall with the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance falling to its lowest level since 2008 going down by 5000 since the same time last year. It's welcome news and is further evidence that the economy is starting to move in the right direction.

I have always been clear that delivering economic regeneration and creating more jobs and better paid jobs is the number on priority for this part of Cornwall. Despite perceptions to the contrary, Camborne, Redruth and Hayle actually have a level of unemployment that is about average for the UK at 3.6 percent.

This is the part of Cornwall where the largest manufacturers are based and where the work gets done. The biggest challenge we have is creating better paid employment because levels of income in Cornwall are stubbornly low. There is no short cut to changing this. In the long term wages will rise only through the creation of new, more profitable businesses and through making sure young people's locally have the standard of education and the skills to win those well paid jobs.

There are lots of reasons why people end up out of work and we need to make sure that the right support is in place to help them. In the case of young people who have just left school or college, it is often the lack of experience that is the only barrier to them finding work. The process of submitting application after application only to be knocked back can be very demoralising. This has been exacerbated by a disturbing feature of modern, supposedly professional "human resources" policies. Often, an employer has already privately decided that they are going to offer a place to an internal candidate but the HR experts will insist on going through the motions of advertising the job and interviewing other candidates so a whole load of people have their time wasted in the name professional practice.

What we really need for our young people is that they have less experience of having to fill out dull application forms but instead are given some experience of actually having a job. That is why the work experience scheme has been such a success because it has given thousands of young people the break they needed and, in lots of cases, employers have been so impressed by the young people who have been seconded to their business that they have gone out of their way to find a paid position for them. That's better for the confidence of young people than requiring them to fill out endless application forms for sham jobs.

But people can also find themselves out of work and suffer a loss of confidence later in life too. There are all sorts of knocks that people have to endure which can lead to a loss of confidence in their ability to work: bereavement, depression, marital breakdown or simply a bad experience with a manager at work leaving them feeling undermined.

Last week I visited a project in Redruth called Active Plus. It is staffed by forces veterans who have suffered problems of their own in life but have come through the other side. They aim to inspire and support older people on the course who have suffered a serious set back in life and to help them get their confidence and sense of purpose back. It's strength is that those who run it know how people feel because they've been there themselves and it was great to see so many people who had clearly enjoyed it and formed new friendships.

The problem of unemployment for those later in life is also exacerbated by a workplace culture that often leaves people in their fifties feeling they are on the scrap heap and are being passed over in favour of younger candidates. It is an attitude that needs to change because older people have so much experience to offer employers which should be recognised. As people live longer and the retirement age rises this will become more important.

George Eustice MP
Member of Parliament for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA 020 72197032