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Sunday, 27 September 2009

My day with the Uber-Neets

Blogging has been light for the past few days, because I am still coming to terms with the day spent on Friday with a group of young people that I shall call the Uber-Neets. The term "Neets" has been used for many years by civil servants and policy wonks to young people driven to the margins of society who are not in education, employment or training.

Twenty years after the American sociologist Charles Murray warned that a big new underclass was looming, and five years after official studies and ministerial papers revealed the underclass had arrived in the form of the Neets, aged between 16 and 24, they number 2 million and are responsible for a social and economic drag on society that is vastly disproportionate to their numbers.

On Friday, I spent the day with a new and emerging subgroup. I met a group of 50 young people aged in their early twenties. Despite looking for jobs for the last year, only 10% had successfully found employment, while the rest were looking at life on benefits. Those who had been responsible for their education were doing their best to raise their self-esteem by recalling their achievements, but in reality the young people knew that for most of them the likelihood of any gainful employment was small to non-existent and the realisation drove many of them to total despondency.

Sadly, this wasn't a meeting at a dilapidated housing estate in Toxteth or Moss-side, but a graduation ceremony at Oxford University. Five years ago, Neets are far more likely to come from broken homes and to have spent time in care. In Gordon Brown’s Britain they come from “world class" educational establishments.

4 comments:

Demetrius said...

Very many years ago I attended an All Age Elementary School in a city centre. All its alumni went on to be fully occupied. Winson Green, Walton, Dartmoor, Brixton, Parkhurst, Barlinnie, Pentonville and other places of higher education.

richardthinks said...

Do you have an idea of the reasons behind the lack of employment from a group who, on the face of it, should be in very high demand?

Is it that their degrees are purely academic and bear little relation to practical application in business? Or that they lack practical work experience and/or skills?

Richard

Alex said...

"Do you have an idea of the reasons behind the lack of employment from a group who, on the face of it, should be in very high demand?

Is it that their degrees are purely academic and bear little relation to practical application in business? Or that they lack practical work experience and/or skills?"

Neither. It is because the traditional route to graduate employment, the graduate entry schemes run by large employer's have ground to a halt.

Many of the graduates I spoke took degrees in Applied Mathematics, Jurisprudence (law), Economics and Management, PPE & History, all of which used to be good tickets to jobs (even history because it requires a high degree of intelligent analysis and is usually prized by analytical companies).

If you want to hire any of them, my commission rates are very reasonable.

richardthinks said...

Alex, it definitely is a tough environment at the moment. A couple of senior managers at KPMG told me this week that where they used to have 10 grads joining their team, this year they got just one!

Although I still think part of the cause is an increasing desire from companies for graduates with applicable degrees.

I graduated in 2008 and was unable to get a graduate role until Christmas 08, and started a few weeks ago. So when I was applying many of the jobs were still going (although I did have a couple of companies write to say they were ceasing recruitment), and with my accounting/finance focus I was even more insulated as these have stayed relatively stable. I had so many rejections that it was probably a good thing I didn't keep track, and I can see how easy it can be to become disheartened and lose faith (although I remained sure I would find something eventually).

What is even harsher for these grads. is that they were some of the first to start paying out £3k/yr in fees (not value for money if you ask me).

And sadly as a graduate I am unable to do any hiring :-)
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