Apprenticeships: An Opportunity for All Our Futures was the first of a series of three posts commencing with the good news of 500 new apprenticeships and Hartlepool Council’s leading role in this.
The first also pointed out the unfairness, crass shortsightedness and political opportunism of the Government’s policies towards all young people whether in education, apprenticeships or work.  This Tory led Government's punitive approach to young people on
benefits, combined with student loans and other debt, will leave a whole
generation of young people left behind.
Some reports of young people’s experiences will give a further insight into the problems they live with now and a glimpse of their futures.
Before reading the young people’s stories remember:
    • Tories and their paymasters who own the Sun, Mail and Express would have you believe
      that young people out of work are lazy scroungers who need punishing sanctions
      to get them into work
    • Your chances of getting a job when finishing education depends greatly on where you
      live
    • Young people who are unemployed (who live mainly in areas where there are no jobs)
      are now ineligible for many benefits or only receive part of a benefit
    • North East has the highest youth unemployment rate amongst UK regions (18.3%) compared to the lowest rate of 11.2% in the East of England
    • 25% of young people not in full-time education in Middlesbrough are unemployed compared with Coventry at 8.%
    • About 50% of graduates are underemployed –doing jobs not needing a degree
    • Over 30% of young, now start a university course, funded by loans
    • Average student debt is over £40000 and rising
    • Over a quarter of young people report feeling a lack of control over their lives;
    • Over a third feel they will have a “worse standard of livin than their parents”;
    • 42% feel that “traditional goals” such as owning a home, or getting a steady job are “unrealistic”.
    • Nearly six out of 10 say that recent political events and the current economic climate make them feel anxious for their future.

Young People's Stories

Jane (Hartlepool) – things are
good!
 “After leaving school I knew I wanted an apprenticeship in the travel industry but I wasn’t sure how to find one. I’m really pleased to be working in an independent travel agency that offers every kind of holiday. I’m gaining lots of experience, with a company that prides itself on giving great service.”
Ian (21) – struggling, not processed but punished
Since putting in his initial claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance, Ian had been contacting Jobcentre Plus on a regular basis to follow-up on why his claim had not been processed. At each point, different explanations were given as to why his claim had not been set up, including not being able to contact Ian and losing his application.
This resulted in Ian having to make repeat applications online, over the phone and even at his local Jobcentre Plus, but to no avail. This process of going back and forth lasted for just under six months. During which time, Ian had to live without any income, which included being unable to receive any hardship funding due to not
having an active claim.
“I have been getting a food parcel every week from local churches and mosques, but mentally I’ve not coped”
The challenges of living without an income and the frustration at being unable to find work eventually led to Ian having a breakdown.
In August Ian’s claim for Job Seeker’s Allowance was finally resolved and he has now begun attending his regular meetings at his local Jobcentre Plus.
“After everything I have been through to go in and sit down in front of someone for two seconds to show them a piece of paper to prove I have looked for work...it was pointless”
Alexandra – 21 apprenticeship worked for her!
Alexandra
Hawkes, a 21 year old from Stockton-on-Tees, is helping to deliver over £32,500,000 worth of  Projects funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in her new role with Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA). Alex started at TVCA as an Apprentice
Enterprise Assistant in February 2016 as part of her apprenticeship, supported by Stockton Learning and Skills.
“At the end of my education I wasn’t sure which path to take, however I decided that I wanted to work in a business environment so a Business Administration apprenticeship seemed like a good idea. The whole process was easy and within a few weeks of working for TVCA I knew this is what I wanted to do.


“Before I started my apprenticeship I had communication issues, but I feel like I really received the support and confidence I needed from TVCA to improve. When the full time position came up I felt like I had the confidence and experience to go for it and doing the apprenticeship has made this adjustment to full time work so much easier.”
 
Simon, completed a Master of Arts Degree.
“Some media outlets already call those of us recently graduated or graduating soon the ‘lost generation’. More recent graduates still live with their parents than have done
in previous years because they cannot afford rent. This generation is more educated, (and more in debt from that education), and less employed than our parents. It was after about two and a half months of sending off one application a day and getting not a single ‘yes’ that I decided to write this article…… as I started thinking more about it, whilst these are all very shocking unemployment statistics, there is another problem…. which blights my group of friends and many other young people: underemployment. By this I mean people who are hugely overqualified for the work they are doing and/or cannot get enough working hours.
Allow me to give you some background for five of my friends.
Only one has what I would call a ‘proper’ job, by this I mean a job which is full time, in the
field he wants to work in and pays him enough to live independently from parental or benefits support . The rest of us are not so lucky as to have that sort of employment stability. One friend has a Master of Engineering degree from Oxford, two have Master of Arts degrees from the University of Kent, and I have a Master of Arts degree from King’s College London. We have, then, been in education more than the average person, and all of us are underemployed.
Most underemployed people I know are bored, they hate their jobs, they feel unmotivated when it comes to searching for better and more relevant jobs, they are still living at home, in some cases well into their late twenties, they feel overwhelmingly under-challenged, and they are negative about their future chances because of all the statistics telling them they are part of a large number of people, and all the media companies labelling them the ‘lost generation’ or ‘generation rent’.”
Laura, Maria, Ross, Sabina, Mark – Sixth Form Students
thoughts about debt
I haven’t yet but I don’t really want to think about how much [debt] I’m going to end up with. (Laura, North East Sixth Form College)


Yeah. I know it’s going to be expensive but it’s just something that I’m going to have to deal with. (Maria, NE Sixth Form College)

A working class pupil from a sixth form estimated that he could leave university with a debt of up to £100,000. He was intending to study medical sciences and then transfer into a medical degree, He discussed his feelings towards this level of debt:  ...if I was to stay in England, if I was to do biomedical science and then medicine, it would probably be approaching a hundred [thousand pounds]. I seem to take it considerably less seriously than my friends do, in that it doesn’t go on my credit record, and it’s just going to be a bit of money each month. [...] Yeah perhaps I’m just being naïve. But I’m trying to avoid worrying about it because I don’t think it’s going to have too much effect. (Ross, North East School)


Sabina had great misgivings about going to university due to worries about debt.
“It’s worrying, and I feel genuinely scared. I know they say that it won’t affect your mortgage or anything like your credit notes and stuff, but for me it’s just that ...yeah if you ever fell behind with any of your payments, what’s the interest that’s going to come on it? How long will they be paying it for? There’s always going to be money taken away from me for, because it was so expensive. People who, when they were at uni, had the £3,000 loans, it will be ... well not so easy, but a lot easier for them to pay it back. And after twenty years it can come off them because they will have paid most of it back. For us it will go on until we have retired.”


Another pupil at the North East Sixth Form College, Mark, was also weighing up whether to go to university or to do an apprenticeship. He too questioned whether the costs of university would be outweighed by the benefits.
“I don’t want to think about it but... I’m reckoning about £40-£50,000 - which is a lot of money. [laughs] [...] I try not to [think about it], but I sometimes think why am I doing it? Is it really worth it? Should I really be doing this? That’s why I think potentially I might end up dropping out right before I enter. It depends on how I feel at the time.” (Mark, IDACI 5, North East Sixth Form College)


Young  people participating in the research (for the YMCA) described living on benefits as a day-to-day struggle.


“After essentials I have about £10 left to myself for 2 weeks, you can’t do much with £10 for 2 weeks”
“I’m a teenager, but I can’t do what other teenagers do”

“It meets the bare minimum. Yes it will keep you fed and yes it will pay you through, but it is a struggle”
“The quicker I can get off benefits, the better”
“No one in the Government knows what it’s like to live onbenefits and in a hostel”
“Every time you ring or speak to someone at the Jobcentre for help, you just get passed from person to person, which doesn’t help you in the slightest”

“With them actually communicating within the Jobcentre, it is ridiculous. You’ll be told one day that you will be called back tomorrow, but when you speak to them asking why you haven’t been called, they will know nothing about it”
“You can’t speak to someone who knows about your claim”
“They don’t tell you enough information, you have to find information and that is where people struggle”

“There is a serious lack of communication within the building and within the organisation...it’s a really poor standard”

“They all need to know what is going on, regardless of their role”
“Sometimes you can get someone who will try to help you out, but nine times out of ten you get someone who just doesn’t care”

“It’s like no one in it has compassion”
“People do look down on you when they find out you are on benefits, especially youth on benefits...even people in the Jobcentre look down on you”
“Some people (working at the Jobcentre Plus) just stick you all in the same boat, you’re unemployed and you’re lazy”
 
Matthew, fourth year Mechanical apprentice, right decision for him!
I became a Pirelli apprentice when I left school at 16 years old. It was a difficult decision for me to make between choosing to study for A-Levels or to come and join a company of this size and begin an apprenticeship. I elected to take the apprenticeship route and it’s a
decision I don’t regret at all.

Learning the trade and the practical skills you can develop here were really part of the appeal for me. You also get paid for working and the studying that comes with doing an
apprenticeship. I’m currently working towards a HNC. I’ll be fully qualified in September, but even so I’ll also be eventually completing a
HND, the equivalent to a Foundation degree, through the company.
Pirelli is committed to training you up to as high a level as possible. If you show promise or strength in a certain area then the company will send you on a course so that you can receive the correct training and gain the appropriate qualifications to help you grow.

I’ve gained so much hands-on experience through Pirelli. The balance between practical development and the theory side is really good here.”


Anthony, 21, when things get hard


Anthony was bullied at school and, as a result by Year 8 he was regularly ‘acting up’ and spent most of his remaining years being educated in isolation. As a result of the problems Anthony faced in school, he only came out of school with one GCSE between A*-C.
“School works for some kids, but some kids need educating in different ways”


After a breakdown in the relationship with his Dad at age 16, Anthony was forced to leave home and spent time living in a bed-sit before eventually finding a place in a local supported housing scheme. However, after Anthony’s tenancy there came to an end, he became homeless and spent 5 months ‘sofa surfing’ with friends and family. It was during this time that he began suffering with depression and substance misuse. Anthony was eventually put in touch with the YMCA in St Helens, where he currently lives.
In dealing with Jobcentre Plus, Anthony finds the people who understand his past situation are supportive in helping him move towards finding employment. However, he often finds that he has to deal with different advisors.
“When I’m dealing with someone who hasn’t dealt with me before, the tone of their voice just seems nasty and cruel”


At a recent meeting, the attitude of the member of staff led to Anthony having an angry outburst in the Jobcentre. It was the stress caused by this event that pushed him back into a period of depression and being signed off by his doctor for a prolonged period of time.
Processed and Punished – views of young people who have been sanctioned (YMCA research project)


"I didn’t cope, I had no-one”
“It’s how long they left me with no money knowing I was pregnant and had to buy my own food”
“I was unable to eat and it was lucky they (YMCA) could help
“You have a much more negative attitude to life as a whole, as you know that for the next however long you have nothing coming in and there is nothing you can do about it”
“I went three months living on food parcels... which is really degrading because you lose all your dignity. It’s not just physically hard, it’s mentally hard”

 “I was unable to look for work as much as I could before”

“It stopped me from searching for work as I had no money to get to different employers”
As well as detrimentally affecting their physical and emotional wellbeing, many of the vulnerable young people taking part in the research felt that having delays in their benefits and being sanctioned actually hindered their ability to look for work and get off benefits.
Owen
Jones commented in the Guardian recently:
“Britain’s destiny is now in the hands of a generation soaked in pessimism, scarred by economic insecurity and decline, demonised by politicians and press barons”
Labour in Hartlepool and nationally believes that Britain’s young people are overwhelmingly good people, wanting a future which will be good for them and for society. Anyone who cares for this generation will vote to get rid of this Tory Government that has inflicted such a present and future on them and us. These are our children and grandchildren. They deserve better.

Join Labour to work for a fairer future for all.

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