Posts Tagged ‘Networking’

Opening doors and breaking barriers, or smoke and mirrors

14/05/2011, 12:00:22 PM

by Hugh Goulbourne

Nick Clegg’s social mobility strategy – Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers has attracted much attention from the media. But are the proposals anything more than just a way of diverting attention from this government’s clumsy budget cuts which have left millions of people, especially those aged 16-25, without access to vital traineeships and work experience opportunities?

The overarching principle set out in Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers is a sound one, namely that “no one should be prevented from fulfilling their potential by the circumstances of their birth” and instead “what ought to count is how hard you work and the skills and talents you possess, not the school you went to or the jobs your parents did”. Indeed it is the very principle that all of us in the Labour party sign up for when we join.

Under New Labour, a series of interventions were made to help target internships and apprenticeships at those from unprivileged backgrounds. Perhaps the most successful of those programmes was the future jobs fund (FJF). The FJF programme provides a grant to charities, social enterprises and local government to offer a paid contract of employment to an individual aged 18 – 24 who has been out of employment for six months – in effect a paid internship.

The experience of the FJF demonstrates the importance of paid internships in opening up vital work experience to those without existing financial support. In West Yorkshire, a consortium of not for profit arts organisations have used the final slice of FJF funding to provide an internship to a local arts graduate, who, despite a good degree and several voluntary positions, has not been able to find the requisite workplace experience to be able to secure full-time employment. All over the country, the programme has been a success, with well over 50% of those who have joined the FJF scheme ceasing to claim job seekers allowance and entering into paid employment seven months after they started the programme.

FJF was axed in April, together with a number of other Labour programmes as part of the government’s spending cuts. It will be replaced by a new code for government internships, a new business compact for fairer, more open internship and work experience programmes and the new work programme.

The first limb of Clegg’s proposals – the reform of government internships and the removal of barriers to internships within the professions and corporate organisations – has already attracted widespread support from those within the Labour party. These are certainly sectors of the economy where significant investment should be directed towards developing a new generation of workers from a range of backgrounds. (more…)

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