Saturday, 26 February 2011

Career opportunities: will they ever knock for the jilted generation?

Apologies for the attempted musical pun in the title, which may perhaps be seen as an attempt to divert attention away from the real issue needing to be explored: the dearth of real graduate employment opportunities in the United Kingdom. After all, the government which a number of us elected is perfectly willing to ignore the ever-growing number of graduates who leave perfectly-reputable universities with impressive degrees, only to find themselves in the same black hole of opportunity currently blighting this country. The fact that Britain has a higher rate of youth unemployment, that is, those aged between 16 and 24 (20.5%) than Bahrain (19.6%), a country in the midst of revolution, is a damning indictment of the government's lack of care for this generation.

Indeed the coalition has been perfectly willing to proceed with its savage programme of funding cuts, which in turn have an adverse effect on the employment rate and the presence of job opportunities for the population as a whole, and raising the cost of tuition fees to astronomical and impossible levels. So the most apt question appears to be: why are the British people not up in arms about this farcical injustice? To be frank, it appears that the population at large simply does not care. University is regarded by many as a right, which of course it is not, and should not be, rather a privilege for those who have demonstrated sufficient levels of hard work, application and intelligence and wish to further their knowledge at a higher level. Yet for the older generations in particular the student lifestyle is often open to ridicule and inaccurate stereotyping. Yet whilst students admittedly spend the best three years of their lives at university, paying a significant amount of money to do so, is it not fair that when they graduate they should be entering a world in which their talents are rewarded and utilised by the government for the technological, social and economic advancement of the country and the rest of the population. Seemingly not.

Admittedly a few have been willing to raise their heads gently and cautiously above the parapet to reveal the true, shocking state of affairs surrounding graduate job opportunities. However they are constantly being shouted down, amidst repetitive statements of 'a fair chance for all' from the government and employers. As a student expecting at least a 2:1 grade in my degree, I am frankly insulted by the notion that being unemployed for a significant proportion of time, as I almost certainly will be upon the culmination of my three year course, is a fair reflection of my abilities. Graduate schemes appear to hold the key, but in fact are just as false as the statements and press releases emerging from Number Ten. The fact is that youth unemployment ought to be one of the biggest millstones hanging around the coalition's neck, but instead it appears to have been well and truly swept under the carpet.

The millionaires currently running this country appear to have decided that individuals spending upwards of £2,000 to obtain and finance work experience from which they gain no full time employment or monetary recompense are being fairly treated. They appear to think that it is fair for a graduate who has paid upwards of £20,000, all costs taken into account, to finance a degree whereby they enjoy just a few hours of contact time a week, to expect to be unemployed for months and possibly years following graduation. These are not exaggerated examples. They may not yet be the norm but in a few years’ time, without a significant reversal of policy, these tales of woe may be the common denominator amongst graduates who, shockingly and quite probably, could have even fewer job opportunities and in effect 'life chances', and a far greater burden of debt. Welcome to the big bad world kids, just try not to let that £30,000 you owe become a distraction whilst you sign on every week...

Photos courtesy of (in order) - The Daily Mail, Labour List, Socialist Worker

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