In the headlines today came another government proposal from David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s respective parties. “End the £21,000 payment cut off for student loans”. The current system allows students to access Student Finance in order to borrow the money in order to pay for their tuition fees and for those who come from poorer backgrounds; access grants that would help them to pay for their higher education needs, such as books and travel costs/accommodation, and only have to worry about paying the loan back once they are in employment and are earning £21,000 and above each year.
For many students, this could be a major blow for their futures. So many employers are looking at higher education degrees for the jobs they are offering, but if this proposal were to come to pass; it would make studying at this level an education that many would simply be unable to afford. The government is always saying how unemployment figures are at their lowest… but is there a reason for that? Many employers have worked out that as a result of trying to keep their benefits, the unemployed need to do work experience whilst they look for work, so why should an employer pay someone for a job that can easily be filled by regular work experience people for no wage?
Please do not misunderstand me, of course work experience can be invaluable experience for later life, especially in employment, but it is by no means a substitute for full time employment that is actually paid. I have undertaken eight different work experience placements since college, none of which had unfortunately any chance of leading me to actual paid employment with the company.
Then comes the other alternative to higher education, which are apprenticeships. When the apprenticeship scheme came into fruition a few years ago, there was great excitement from students and the media at the prospect of being able to earn a wage whilst gaining a qualification and a full time job.
What many later discovered that with the exception of the lucky few, apprenticeships would only last a year or two, and then an employer could simply trade you out for a new apprentice, leaving you without a job and also being unable to apply for another apprenticeship at the same level, and worse still, apprenticeships are known for mainly paying workers half of the national minimum wage; which makes it harder for young people to save up, live alone independently and start their own lives, which is why many young people are being forced to live at home.
As I have been job seeking I have seen and also applied for a great number of apprenticeships, the trouble is job roles that used to be advertised as “actual full time paid job roles” are now being labelled as apprenticeships, for instance the “checkout operator” apprenticeship at Poundland I saw being recently advertised and the shelf stacking apprenticeship I saw at a smaller local store. What ever happened to being able to gain a “job for life” when leaving education?
So many of these apprenticeships unfortunately offer qualifications that are of little consequence to future employers, so why is the government trying to keep a divide in the public that has not been seen since an episode of Downton Abbey?
Instead of harassing the young people of this country, why not create a fair system for all? Help young people find a permanent job for life; help them to be able to access an education that they can use to support their futures, and in turn help the next generation. Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg promised young people in the last election to support students with their education, promising a “bright future” for the younger generation. Instead, all they have caused is an ever increasingly competitive job market; a bitter society and an unfair divide between areas of the country. All I can say is that I hope that this proposal does not come to pass and that eventually help will come to those who actually need it, before the situation becomes dire.