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In cahoots they score! But is it an own goal?

Jon Lloyd

Government and companies teaming up to tackle unemployment through the Youth Contract, what could possibly go wrong?

Choosing the week that Workfare blew up, leaving egg on a fair few faces, might not be the best time for the UK government to launch a new initiative encouraging employers to take on the unemployed.

In the case of Workfare, both the Government and business have come out looking cheap and a bit nasty. Each seeming to further their own ends through the free, or close-to-free, labour of some of society’s most disadvantaged people, with those people labouring under threat of benefit penalties. But hang on! maybe the Youth Contract considers something that Workfare seems not to have; the interests of those unemployed people it is setting out to help.

A first look at the Youth Contract isn’t too hopeful. There’s lots of information about what employers are going to get out of it. Subsidies abound it seems. And for the young person? What’s in it for them? Well here the information is a little less clear. Apprenticeships and work experience are mentioned, but details are hazy. It seems the only concrete outcome a young person can expect from their involvement is an extra, weekly, signing-on meeting with their benefits adviser. Early reports of the country’s 18 to 24 year olds celebrating wildly at this prospect are, we are advised, premature.

Companies do some fantastic work in their communities. Often through employability schemes that offer routes into employment for those not able to follow traditional paths. The best of these have one thing in common; that the interests of the individual placement, apprentice or trainee are paramount and centre-stage. Yes there ought to be a return to the business, but to this end the development of a fully-competent colleague and effective staff-member will always be a stronger story than access to government hand outs.

The Youth Contract may yet be a great way forward, but until more details emerge of the return to the individual along with the return to the company, employers should consider the balance of just who is getting what out of the arrangement.

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